IU scuba instructor Sam Haskell’s main focus is to promote the creation of underwater parks and cultural heritage tourism. Haskell is the laboratory coordinator for underwater science, and he teaches the scuba diving certification course through the School of Public Health. The scuba diving course provides an insight into underwater culture and protecting the marine world.
After graduating from IU with a degree in underwater archaeology, anthropology and history in 2015, Haskell was offered a full-time position as a lecturer. His research focuses on how shipwrecks and other submerged pieces of history can act as catalysts for the biological growth of endangered species.
“I called it in my thesis ‘protecting the cultural past and the environmental present,’” Haskell said
IU divers conduct most of their research in the Dominican Republic, but also in the Cayman Islands and Florida Keys.
Haskell said that there is a three-masted schooner at the bottom of Lake Michigan, and it’s like imagining a perfectly preserved pirate ship. The Ironsides, a mid-19th century freighter in Lake Michigan, is now completely encrusted in an invasive zebra mussel species. This biological phenomenon can be seen in ways other than scuba diving, including snorkeling, skin diving and even on glass-bottom boat tours.
This summer, a few divers from this course will be accompanying Haskell to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to complete their certification dives in open water. Among those to go on the trip is junior Savanna Lee Brock, a biology student who is interested in lab work and animal science.
Brock said shehopes to incorporate her diving skills into a marine biology career. This course is a necessary component of her education for her intended career path, but she said she enjoys the easygoing, peaceful nature of the course at the end of a long week.
“If you’re looking for community, fun and a therapeutic relief from academia life, this is where to go,” Brock said. “There’s a good chance you’ll fall in love and become addicted.”
The scuba diving course isn’t only for those who want to incorporate diving into their careers. Another student in the course is Ryan Conkin, a senior majoring in biology and theater. She will be heading to law school at the University of New Hampshire next year. She said she istaking this course because diving has been a longtime interest of hers and she finally has time to get certified.
“It’s incredibly peaceful being underwater,” Conkin said. “We were just hovering in the shallow end, and when you’re not touching the bottom you just feel completely weightless. It’s pretty cool.”
Conkin said sheplans to make scuba diving a lifelong hobby, and she is looking forward to diving in the Galápagos Islands once she achieves her diving certification.
Haskell said that since scuba has become easily accessible for recreational divers, underwater cultural heritage is disappearing. Some divers loot abandoned shipwrecks in search of valuables, which destroys the biology of the wrecking process.
Because of this, research divers like Haskell are working to preserve shipwrecks as protected underwater sites that can be visited safely by divers. Haskell stressed the ocean is a culture in and of itself, and it should be respected and celebrated.
“We need to get people out seeing the ocean and appreciating it,” Haskell said. “It really is a finite resource, and it’s not going to be around for much longer unless we make a radical change in the way that we think about the marine environment.”