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Deep Water Exploration: Research discusses challenges and advances in scientific diving in Brazil |  Energy and science

Deep Water Exploration: Research discusses challenges and advances in scientific diving in Brazil | Energy and science

Although generally associated with the act of immersion in water, the act of “diving” can also mean exploring the unknown in depth, perhaps bringing something new to the surface. In cooperation between several scientific institutes from different Brazilian states, the article Scientific diving in Brazil: history, present and perspectivesrecently published in the journal Ocean and Coastal Research, brings together decades of studies on diving as a basic scientific practice.

The text, released in December 2023, includes a series of reflections on the activity and describes the first report of an underwater scientific study in Brazil, dating back to the 19th century on the Abrolhos Reef. Currently, scientific diving is conducted in a variety of areas, from shallow coastal areas to remote and inaccessible locations, such as oceanic islands, flooded caves, and icy regions such as Antarctica.

“Scientific diving (MC) is any activity we carry out that requires diving for the purpose of obtaining scientific data or materials,” explains Professor Tito Montero da Cruz Lutovo, from the Department of Biological Oceanography at the Institute of Oceanography (IO) of the University of the South Pacific, one of the authors of the article. , part of a working group on this topic. According to him, this practice is crucial in many fields, including oceanography, marine biology and archaeology.

However, according to the authors, regulation of this method in Brazil still lacks more concrete measures for effective and efficient self-regulation, which provides physical security for practitioners and institutional guarantees for organizations that use it in their research projects.

Who are divers?

“Diving is a very ancient activity, from hunting creatures at the bottom of the sea to searching for treasures. Throughout history, [a atividade] It had many development points, often involving science, even if it was not exactly intended to answer scientific questions,” Lutovo explains when focusing on the invention of Scuba – an English abbreviation for The underwater breathing apparatus is self-contained – Written by Jacques Cousteau and Philippe Tailes, as a milestone in the development of scientific diving, which has greatly expanded the scope of underwater research since the mid-20th century.

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“from [da invenção do SCUBA] “Things accelerated with the establishment of associations and the development of protocols and standards.”

In Brazil, a bibliographic review of databases showed a significant increase in scientific production related to scientific diving since the 2000s. The majority of documents analyzed belong to marine biology, followed by geology, artificial structures, and ethnoscience. The most common areas of study were ecological aspects, animal behaviour, taxonomy, records of invasive species and habitat mapping. This increase in scientific production is directly linked to the growth of human resources in this field since the 2000s.

To map this process, the study sought to understand the profile of scientific divers in Brazil. The majority of participants had a background in biological sciences, followed by oceanography, archaeology, fisheries engineering, and ecology. The results showed that the majority of scientific divers in Brazil are young people, generally with doctorates, who conduct research related to biological sciences in coastal waters up to 30 meters deep.

In this context, the professor highlighted the importance of the work team within the Executive Committee for Human Resources Training in Marine Sciences (PPG-Mar) associated with the Ministry of Education. The group, which was established in mid-2004, seeks to develop training courses in the maritime field and set standards for scientific diving. “This working group was created within PPG-Mar, linked to the MEC, and its main task is to develop training courses in the marine area. This arose from the need for some kind of government support to try to organize scientific diving activity.

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“One of the main limitations we face today is the training of scientific divers. We do not have a uniform rule or protocol in Brazil,” reveals the professor. According to him, training as a diving scientist is challenging, because it depends on diving training and also formal academic scientific training. : “Diving training is expensive, the equipment is expensive, and it is something that the majority of the Brazilian population does not have access to.”

Regarding the role of universities in developing this practice, the professor expressed concern about the infrastructure and resources needed for scientific diving in Brazil. In recent years, Lotufo has promoted the importance of maintaining IO ships, for example, which have recently faced bureaucratic difficulties such as a lack of staff for maintenance and operations. “We know that the ship maintenance structure is expensive and burdens the university budget, but it is essential in the study of oceanography,” he points out.

Preserving ecosystems

Furthermore, Lutovo highlights the role of scientific divers in monitoring marine ecosystems, especially in light of the challenges posed by climate change.

“We have this enormous challenge of exploring the Blue Amazon, a huge area under Brazil’s responsibility. “How can this be done in a sustainable and rational way without knowledge?” asks the expert, remembering that in the 21st century, “there is still a lot to be discovered and this It requires resources.” For him, a more organized and institutional approach to scientific diving in Brazil is necessary, citing examples of well-established programs in other countries, such as the United States.

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We hope that the diving tool will be increasingly popularized, especially in the process of training researchers and professionals. This will allow us to use this tool more widely and learn more about what is happening underwater.

Finally, the article highlights the importance of investing in the specificities of the units concerned with marine study, and addressing the logistical and financial challenges they face, especially in a country with vast coastlines like Brazil. With this in mind, in a final provocation, the professor asks: “How can we move towards a sustainable future without a good knowledge of this system, which is the great regulator of climate on the planet?”

More information: Email [email protected], with Tito Lotufo, Professor at the Institute of Oceanography (IO) at the University of the South Pacific