Photo: This sign displays next to the Academy's dive locker.

Bob Hollis has worked with and supported the California Academy of Sciences since before the inception of Oceanic. A few weeks ago we caught up with Elliott Jessup, the Diving Safety Officer over at the California Academy of Sciences/Steinhart Aquarium. Elliott manages all aspects of the diving program, with responsibilities such as running science dive classes, maintenance of the aquarium and dive locker, and supervising volunteer divers. We talked about the contributions that AUP has made to the Academy, how the equipment is being utilized, recent projects, and future endeavors.

The relationship between AUP and the Steinhart Aquarium grew through the friendship of Bob Hollis and Dr. John McCosker, Senior Scientist and Chair, Department of Aquatic Biology. When the new academy was being built, Bob was passionate about sponsoring the dive program in order to push forward the efforts of scientific discovery and education. A generous equipment donation was made which provided the Academy with everything needed to support the needs for on and off-site diving.

Photo: Oceanic regulators hang inside the dive locker.

Photo: Diving Safety Officer, Elliott Jessup, gives a tour of the dive locker and shows off some of the gear.

Oceanic and Hollis gear are both used at the Academy for a wide array of duties. The gear is used in-house for exhibit maintenance and public program dive shows, while out in the field the equipment is used for research and scientific collections for the Academy.

Photo: A volunteer diver cleans one of the tanks to prepare for an afternoon dive show.

The most recent project that the Academy has been working on was an expedition to the Philippines. This recent expedition is the largest that the Academy has ever pursued, both from a diving and terrestrial standpoint. There were over 30 researchers from the Academy as well as members of the aquarium and education outreach. In the Academy's official press release it is stated that "they encountered more than 300 species that appear to be new to science", and although that is an unofficial number, "over the next few months, the expedition scientists will be hard at work analyzing the specimens they collected during their field work—and undoubtedly discovering more new species along the way." One thing that made these finds possible is the fact that the California Academy of Sciences is the only institution in the United States that is allowed to collect in the Philippines. The expedition helped research but all was beneficial in expanding the Academy's living collection.

The Academy's dive program is growing both in-house and in the field for research. A new curator has recently been hired who has plans for deep reef research where they will be diving at depths of 200-400 feet and expecting to discover many new species. The diving for some of the upcoming projects will be rated much past a recreational level and "we need gear that reliable, that we can depend on, and that's going to work at 300 ft.", which is why Elliott is excited about continuing to take advantage of the Hollis dive gear.

The Academy is planning on expanding their volunteer dive program, moving from nearly 20 divers to around 100, and with hopes of eventually getting the volunteer divers out into the field doing research. The dive program is growing rapidly and if you are interested in becoming a part of it or have any questions you can contact Elliott.

Photo: During maintenance and tank cleaning the divers at the Academy always have time to interact with visitors.