Over 40 feet under the sea off the Channel Islands, the Aggie Scuba Club gathers together to capture an underwater video. As bubbles float up toward the surface, they unfold their club banner that reads, “Get wet and go deep with Aggie Scuba. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s population has never breathed underwater, swum with sharks, seen the surface from 100 ft below it. We have. You can too.”
Aggie Scuba is a relatively new UC Davis club that started last fall when founder and president Austin Greene, a sophomore aerospace science and engineering major, wanted to connect with other divers.
“It took off really fast. Right now we have about 60 people on our listserv and 30 registered members,” Greene said. “The cool thing about diving is that it requires a lot of responsibility, so people that join the club tend to stick with it.”
The club revolves around a shared love of the ocean, diving and ocean conservation. Whether you’re just starting out or as experienced as Aggie Scuba safety coordinator Roxanne Parker, a junior biological sciences major who has been on 500 dives, everyone is welcome in the club.
“We’re trying to connect people back to the ocean,” said Aggie Scuba communications manager Dustin Owen, a senior viticulture and enology major.
In addition to diving and conservation efforts, members can kayak, go spear fishing and hang out on the boat during trips, Owen said.
Aggie Scuba will also help members get diving certified if they’re just starting out. The club has a close relationship with All About Scuba dive shop in Fairfield, CA, which is where people can get certified and rent gear.
The club averages one meeting and at least one dive trip a month to keep members active.
“We can get you gear, a ride, food, a place to sleep. We’ll get you diving,” Owen said.
Since scuba diving is already an expensive hobby, the club dues are kept low at $15 per quarter, all of which goes directly to the club to pay for t-shirts and offset the cost of trips.
To put it into perspective, diving certification costs $400, which is about the same price as a video game console, Greene said. But diving will get you farther than any video game, he said.
The club recently went on a dive trip to the Channel Islands with members of the scuba club at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The club trips allow members to meet fellow divers and experience aspects of the ocean that the average person will never see.
“No two dives are ever the same,” Greene said.
Fish, starfish, jellyfish, sea lions, lobsters and dolphins are just a few of the amazing creatures divers have seen on the club trips.
“Even if you dive off the same beach every time, it’s never the same because the ocean always drags something new in,” said Aggie Scuba dive coordinator Tristan Maass, an employee at the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis.
This year, Aggie Scuba is planning to focus on its motto, “Conservation through exploration,” with their Shark Finning Awareness campaign.
“We wanted to bring awareness to something that not a lot of people know about, and not everyone knows how much sharks are needed,” said Aggie Scuba event coordinator Danielle Kronk, a junior animal science major.
The campaign brings awareness to the fact that every year 100 million sharks are caught, their fins are cut off to be used in shark fin soup and then they are tossed back into the ocean to sink and die, Greene said.
There is more information, videos and posters available on the Aggie Scuba website for people to print out and give to their friends to spread awareness, with slogans such as “Fins belong in the sea not in soup.”
“We don’t want to tell people what to do, we just want people to be aware of what’s going on,” Kronk said.
China is the main consumer of shark fin soup, and once the sharks are gone the ocean ecosystem will be in a really bad place, Kronk said.
“We live off the ocean whether or not people want to admit it or not,” Greene said. “It’s common sense. Why kill 100 million sharks for soup that doesn’t even taste good?”
To support the campaign, the club suggests signing petitions that are linked on their website, giving people posters and being proactive.
In relation to their conservation efforts, people interested in research diving are encouraged to check out the research diver program at the Bodega Marine Laboratory. The lab is always in need of research divers and the program prepares divers for just that.
“We’re at a research university, so we want the Bodega Marine Lab to be able to come to us for research divers,” Kronk said.
To learn more about Aggie Scuba, visit facebook.com/AggieScuba or aggiescuba.com.
CASEY SPECHT can be reached at email@example.com.