On October 19-21, Reef Check partnered with USX to turn seven US veterans into EcoDivers. USX is a non-profit organization that connects veterans with opportunities to participate in citizen science and exploration. USX believes that connecting passionate, determined veterans with opportunities to participate in the process of scientific discovery, they advance technology and human understanding while providing a powerful sense of purpose to our nation's heroes.
Thanks to Reef Check Course Director Nikole Heath, and Reef Check California volunteer diver and US Army veteran Anesti Vega, USX sponsored its first group of marine explorers to become Reef Check EcoDivers.
Vega says, “USX continues to provide such an incredible opportunity for military veterans to continue their sense of purpose by serving as citizen scientists. Work as a citizen scientist by partnering with environmental groups and research organizations provides a platform for these service-based qualities to shine while contributing to the greater good of science and USX is centered at the forefront of that intersection. The collaboration and cohesiveness of an all veteran team on this expedition was second to none and it was an honor serving as their leader.”
The divers had excellent training and guidance from Nikole, based at Force E Dive Shop in Pompano Beach, Florida. After a day of classroom training, the divers practiced the protocol on the Copenhagen Wreck off the Florida coast.
While the team was unable to lay transects on the second day due to a strong current, the team was still able to identify and document diseases and bleaching and their locations to report back to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.