I spend most of my everyday work life above water. However, on occasion, I get the opportunity to explore the underwater world — and I get paid for it!

As a marine and freshwater scientist, I’ve been an active member of the AECOM Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) dive team for five years, conducting projects in places such as New England and the Gulf of Mexico.

One of our projects was conducting an oyster population density survey in the Gulf of Mexico within a proposed shipping channel in Galveston Bay. The population counts we generated helped dictate mitigation efforts used to minimize impacts on the ecosystem during channel dredging, which is the removal of sediments and debris from the bottom of lakes, rivers, harbors and other water bodies. In order to estimate oyster populations, the dive team used a 0.25-square-meter quadrant (square) and laid it down on the sediment at numerous locations along a transect line (measuring tape). The number of oysters within each square was recorded and, from that, a larger population was estimated.

We were able to achieve a seemingly impossible goal of conducting an oyster survey in water where the visibility was close to zero. While diving for AECOM, part of our standard gear is a full face mask with a built-in speaker and microphone. This face mask enables us to speak to each other underwater and also allows us to communicate with the topside support. Without this piece of equipment, our “blind dives” would have been impossible.

The dives we did in Galveston Bay were unique and challenging in nature, but allowed us to work as a team — providing support to one another under less-than-favorable conditions. Being part of the dive team allows me to go places I never thought were possible and to build relationships with people in many regions and practices throughout our company. The ability for us to provide the service of scientific scuba skills to our clients is incredibly unique. The dive team and I are always looking for a new adventure and enjoy being innovative to achieve project goals.