21 November 2007

 

Laser spots decompression sickness

Kirill LarinDecompression sickness, it not treated quickly, can cause lasting damage and may even be fatal. Instead of waiting for symptoms to appear, a University of Houston professor is developing a laser-based system that can diagnose decompression sickness in a matter of seconds.

Kirill Larin, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering, is using a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Navy to develop the first optical non-invasive tool to test those most likely to suffer from decompression sickness, such as SCUBA divers, submariners and airplane pilots. Decompression sickness affects those who experience sudden, drastic changes in the air or water pressure surrounding their bodies. It can cause anything from joint pain – known as the bends – to seizure, stroke, coma and, in the most extreme cases, death.

“Most of the time, decompression sickness isn’t addressed until the person starts showing clinical symptoms,” Larin said. “It would be better, of course, to treat the problem before the symptoms appear. That would allow individuals to take the appropriate medical actions to reduce the side effects of decompression sickness.”

Larin’s optical device can locate microbubbles of nitrogen gas in blood and tissues, which can restrict the flow of blood throughout the body and cause harm. Larin is developing the tool, which works much like an ultrasound machine, with Dr. Bruce Butler of the UT Health Science Center in Houston. Instead of getting readings using sound waves, however, Larin’s system uses light waves in the form of lasers that bounce back when they encounter resistance, thereby providing a high-resolution image.

The Navy could eventually use this technology on all divers or pilots returning to the surface. By shining the laser on one of these individuals, it would provide an image that would reveal the presence of any microbubbles in the blood or tissue – all in a matter of seconds. If microbubbles are found, then medical steps, such as time in a decompression chamber, could be taken before the symptoms appear.

An early version of the tool has been able to locate microbubbles as small as six micrometers, or six thousandths of a millimeter. Most microbubbles are between five and 15 micrometers, about the size of a red blood cell.

With continued research, everyone from highly trained naval divers and pilots, to astronauts and recreational SCUBA divers could benefit.

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20 November 2007

 

Your dive memories needed for global shark census

Leopard SharkA Canadian researcher is asking divers to contribute to a global shark census.

Christine Ward-Paige, PhD student at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, says..."We believe that scuba divers/snorkellers possess valuable information about the critters they see in the ocean - especially about conspicuous species like sharks. Reports about the places where you don't see sharks (either today or 50 years ago) are just as important as places where you do see sharks."

The study will not only provide valuable information about where sharks are surviving, but it will also show that scuba divers can provide valuable information. To date, most of the data on global shark populations is gained from fishermen and tracking of individual sharks. Scuba divers are a vital, untapped resource and key to filling information gaps.

With overwhelming evidence that shark populations have declined dramatically over the last 50 years, there are still places where some shark species are persisting and even thought to be thriving. Identification of these species and areas is an important step in determining the best method for recovery. In a time when the number of no-take zones and fishing restrictions are increasing, there is a need for acquiring data through alternative, non-extractive methods. All scuba divers and snorkellers that have been in the ocean can help with this effort.

Sharks are an essential component of marine ecosystems; yet, human pressure has put many species at dangerously low abundance levels. Determining what tools (e.g. Marine Protected Areas, coastal development, undisturbed nurseries, fishing regulations, etc.) are best for their survival will be essential for restoring, at least in part, these systems to their former resilience.

To take part in the survey go to http://www.globalshark.ca/shark_survey.php?lang=en&sub=3
For more information see
http://www.globalshark.ca/shark_survey.php?lang=en&sub=0


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09 November 2007

 

Enter Underwater Photography and Video Competition

Our World Underwater are launching their third annual international photo and video competition. Photographers can compete in seven still-image categories and two video categories, to win more than $50,000 in prizes including liveaboard trips to Mexico, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Red Sea, Grand Cayman, Soloman Islands and Vietnam; underwater camera equipment; diving equipment and books.

The competition includes a category for images that focus on conservation and the marine environment, and one specifically for entries taken by compact digital cameras.

Deadline for submissions is 13 Jan 2008.

For more information see Our World Underwater.

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07 November 2007

 

New free guide to diving America's marine sanctuaries

photo credit: NOAAThe NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program has developed a colourful new printed guide and Web page for scuba divers, about diving in America's 13 national marine sanctuaries.

“NOAA’s national marine sanctuaries have something to offer every diver, from the most experienced to the newly certified,” said Daniel J. Basta, sanctuary program director. “We hope that all divers visiting our sanctuaries will want to join efforts to help preserve and protect these special places for future generations.”

The new diving guide describes the world beneath the sea at each of the national marine sanctuaries, from the shipwrecks and nutrient-rich waters of Stellwagen Bank off Massachusetts to the pristine coral reefs of Fagatele Bay in American Samoa. The brochure also offers tips on how to be a more responsible diver by mastering buoyancy control, respecting marine wildlife, and how to volunteer for habitat monitoring activities in your local marine sanctuary.

Available in PDF format at http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/visit/diving.html, a short version of the new guide can be downloaded and customised for use by dive operators and tourism companies to give their customers.

NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States Department of Commerce.

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01 November 2007

 

Thistlegorm off limits to divers for a month

ThistlegormThe wreck of the Thistlegorm will be closed to divers from 15th November till 15th December 2007. This is to allow for conservation measures that will help to preserve this historical and legendary wreck for the future. The closure is part of the new Saving The Red Sea Wrecks Campaign, launched by HEPCA (Hurghada Environment Protection and Conservation Association).

The campaign proposes a detailed plan to change in common vessel operational procedures that contribute to the degradation of the wreck. A complete educational and awareness program will also be rolled out to encourage more environmentally friendly briefings and best practice. The campaign will later target the Rosalie Moller and other Red Sea wrecks under threat.

During the intense conservation operation, the wreck of the Thistlegorm will acquire a complete buoy mooring system; separate descent and ascent lines; and air-escape outlets to allow for pockets of disposed air from scuba tanks to escape.

Hepca says "We have witnessed for too long the long-term effects of an unprecedented level of use on the SS Thistlegorm and many other wrecks in the Red Sea. Without the intervention of proper preservation management we will lose these valuable wrecks forever.

We hope that all diving operators and organisations will stand together to assist in the realisation of this unique operation and the Saving The Red Sea Wrecks Campaign."

Thistlegorm
The Thistlegorm has been voted one of the Top Ten Dives in the World. A British vessel, it was attacked from the air and sunk in 1941 whilst carrying a cargo of war supplies: rifles, motor bikes, train carriages, trucks. These are still inside the wreck.





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