FKNMS Divers Partner with FPAN to Train New Citizen Scientists
Florida Public Archaeology Network Archaeologist Jeff Moates demonstrates non-intrusive photo documentation on the USS Amesbury.
In June, NOAA Divers from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) partnered with Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) to offer training on how to become a citizen scientist and promote sustainable visitation to underwater heritage sites.
Heritage Awareness Dive Seminars (HADS) are offered throughout Florida and include underwater visits to historical shipwrecks as part of the training. The students look for materials like heavy wooden timbers or ballast stones such as the ones found on the Brick Wreck to identify historic shipwrecks. They learn how construction can also help indicate vessel usage.
In 2018, the FKNMS/FPAN partnership included an additional component to the training that allows participants to become a Submerged Heritage Monitoring Scout (SHMS). Through the SHMS one-day program, scouts learn the basics about history, archaeology, ship construction and laws that protect underwater resources and visit two shipwrecks.
With their new training, scouts can provide valuable first hand reports about changes or threats to historical sites during their regular visits to the sanctuary. Because the FKNMS encompasses 2,900 square nautical miles, regular monitoring of its resources is very difficult, and the scouts can enlarge the ability of the sanctuary to help protect sensitive resources. In addition, frequent storms make resources vulnerable to degradation, leading to a loss of important data if not collected in a timely way.
FKNMS plans to use the monitoring data reported by scouts to identify changes in underwater sites and to identify sites in need of immediate attention.
You can find more information about the dangers posed by climate change to shipwrecks and how citizen scientists can help in this Atlas Obscura article.