Campus: CSU Northridge -- December 11, 2002
Science Channel Show Chronicles Undersea Research
of CSUN Professor, Students
Last summer, Cal State Northridge biology professor Peter Edmunds, a
couple of graduate students and an undergraduate student spent about
three weeks studying the effects temperature has on the fragile underwater
coral reefs off the Florida Keys.
Inclement weather threw a monkey wrench into some of their planned experiments
and part of the team had to deal with the effects of living in an underwater
laboratory about the size of a mobile home for a week. And The Science
Channel series "Science of the Deep" captured it all on tape.
The show, "Aquarius: Undersea Lab," will premiere on The Science
Channel Saturday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m.
Edmunds said he agreed to allow the camera crews to follow his team,
both on ground and under water, to dispel the myth that scientists were
drab persons in lab coats who only care about statistics and to underscore
the fragility of the Florida coral reefs, the only coral reef system
in the continental United States.
"The reefs are facing a very profound threat in the next 10 years
or more in terms of global climate change," Edmunds said. "I
think it's appropriate and important to take every opportunity to educate
people about what is going on."
Edmunds and his crew, which included two CSUN graduate students, an
undergraduate student and a former CSUN student who is now getting his
doctorate in marine biology at the University of Delaware, specifically
were studying the effects of global climate change on the biology of
coral larvae. Together with colleagues Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and Bill Leggat
from the University of Queensland, Australia, and Ruth Gates from UCLA,
Edmunds fielded an international and diverse research team.
The project took place in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
and was in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
which owns the Aquarius undersea lab off Key Largo.
Half the team spent a week down in the underwater lab off Key Largo
with technicians from NOAA while the other half, which included Edmunds
and undergraduate student Sergio Saucedo, stayed above water, directing
and monitoring the work done by those in the lab and making daily dives
to the research area.
The lab is an 80-ton cylindrical chamber that is 43-feet long and 12
feet in diameter.
Edmunds, who spent 10 days doing a similar project in the lab in 1995,
chose to stay above water this time and direct operations from the surface.
"Being underwater that long is very stressful ad physically exhausting,"
he said. "You suffer from nitrogen narcosis which makes it somewhat
difficult to work. We were told that it is like being on a one- or two-beer
buzz all day … and in 1995, I underestimated the difficulties
of this scenario. It becomes very challenging to do complete complex
science … or even to deal with simple tasks!"
The Science Channel's cameras captured the work in the lab as well as
Edmunds and his colleagues making changes in their research plans when
bad weather impacts their project. They had to shift focus slightly
because the weather meant they couldn't capture as many larvae as they
wanted. Instead, they focused on how coral responds to different light
intensities at different depths.
"The show should give people a taste of what science is really
like," Edmunds said. "Not everything goes as planned, but
a lot of field science is being able to think on your feet. Regardless
of the path, the process is exciting and very satisfying."
Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler (818) 677-2130 email@example.com