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World’s leading underwater explorer to visit Aquarena

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
March 17, 2008

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle will “cut the ribbon” unveiling the new Spring Lake underwater webcam at Aquarena Center on the Texas State University-San Marcos campus March 26.

Earl’s appearance, in conjunction with the Common Experience program at Texas State, will be at 3 p.m. The general public is invited to attend the ceremony at the Landing, adjacent to Spring Lake.

The underwater camera was provided by television station Fox 7 News of Austin.

Earle is a Distinguished Lecturer for the James and Marilyn Lovell Center for Environmental Geography and Hazards Research at Texas State.  Named Time Magazine's first “Hero for the Planet” in 1999, and called a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, Earle has authored more than 150 scientific, technical, and popular publications, and appeared in hundreds of television productions. She has directed over 60 diving expeditions, logged more than 6,000 hours underwater and set the record for solo diving: 1,000 meters or 3,281 feet.

The web cam was the brainchild of Shawn O’Shea, one of Aquarena’s most enthusiastic Diving for Science volunteers. The Diving for Science program actively supports Aquarena’s mission with certified divers representing all parts of Texas who help protect and preserve natural springs and aquifers throughout the state.

O’Shea, Fox 7 vice president of engineering and operations, approached Aquarena with his idea of providing the web cam to make an underwater view of Spring Lake available to the public via the world wide web. The web cam was recently installed in Aquarena’s “Deep Hole,” one of the most scenic viewing areas and the deepest location in Spring Lake. Viewers will be able to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the beauty of the sensitive spring-fed habitat; home to eight endangered and threatened species found only in Spring Lake and San Marcos River.

The diving for science program is nationally recognized for its unique approach of organizing certified scuba divers to perform strictly regulated tasks in this “critical habitat.”  Divers not only take 40 hours of course work to qualify to join the work group, but they are financially self-supporting. This parallels the educational programs at Aquarena, which are also self-supporting.

Ron Coley, Aquarena Center director, called the installation an exciting development.

“Allowing the general public to log on to see what is going on underneath Spring Lake will increase awareness of the crystal clear spring-fed water bubbling up from the Edwards Aquifer,” Coley said. “We hope the scenic view motivates people to come enjoy the glass bottom boat tour and get more people interested in our Diving For Science program to learn about this unique aquatic habitat.”

Visit www.aquarena.txstate.edu for more information about Aquarena’s Diving for Science program.  To view the underwater web cam located in Deep Hole, visit http://media.myfoxaustin.com/cams/webcams.htm.