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The SCUBAnauts Receive Gulf Guardian Award For Gulf of Mexico Mitigation Reef Assessment

Release Date: 09/08/2009
Contact Information: Davina Marraccini, (404) 562-8293,

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced that SCUBAnauts International, Tampa Bay Chapter, of Tampa, Florida will receive a second place Gulf Guardian Award for 2009 in the Education Category. The 2009 Gulf Guardians hold a special significance this year as they will be awarded on the 10th Anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico Program’s Gulf Guardian Awards Program! (2000-2009). The ceremony will be held on the evening of October 29, 2009, beginning at approximately 6 p.m in the Magnolia Ballroom at the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi. The Awards ceremony is being held in conjunction with the Oceans `09 International Conference.

SCUBAnauts International is a non-profit youth education organization that uses SCUBA diving and expertise from federal, state and university scientists to immerse students (12-18) in marine science research. SCUBAnaut students monitored corals in the Gulf of Mexico, as part of Dr. Jennifer DuPont’s dissertation at the University of South Florida (USF), College of Marine Science. Dr. DuPont and 24 SCUBAnaut students were joined by Dr. Christopher Moses (Jacobs/US Geological Survey, USGS) and Dr. David Palandro (Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, FWRI) to monitor the changes to the habitat before, during and after the 2005 red tide event. USF scientists, along with three or four SCUBAnauts per trip, were tasked with the monitoring component of the project. They collected and analyzed data from eight 1 m2 photographic mosaics at haphazardly chosen artificial reef sites on a quarterly basis to track epibenthic community development.

This work represents a critical extension of a monitoring study of recruitment and succession on artificial reef structures after the 2005 red tide event. The study, conducted in conjunction with the Florida Aquarium, Gulfstream Natural Gas Systems (GNGS), and USF provided a focused time series (2005 to 2007) before and after the catastrophic 2005 red tide disturbance. The new science data acquired for the completion of this project provides insight into the resilience of coexisting natural and artificial flora and fauna after a significant red tide event. These young scientists are the next generation of Gulf stewards and already feel a level of ‘ownership’ of the marine environment

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. A first, second, and third place award are given each year in seven categories individual, business, youth and education, nonprofit organizations, government, partnership and bi-national efforts.

A. Stanley Meiburg, Acting Regional Administrator of U.S. EPA Region 4 said, "The Gulf of Mexico is a priceless treasure. As a unique habitat, a place which gives pleasure to countless Americans, and a source of some of our most valuable resources, it has no equal. These Gulf Guardians who labor to protect and enhance this magnificent sea deserve our highest praise and thanks."

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

Bryon Griffith, Director of the Gulf of Mexico Program said, “The Gulf Guardian Awards Program is in its 10th year of honoring citizens, governments and businesses throughout the 5 State Gulf Region for outstanding environmental achievements. Our 2009 award winners are truly an inspiration and exemplify the high quality of projects being done that generate as much excitement and pride as the award winners did in the beginning. With the addition of the Binational Gulf Guardian award in 2005, we now appropriately pay tribute to the bond we share in protecting this treasured resource with our southern neighbors and friends.”

For a list of all the Gulf Guardian Award winners for 2009, visit the Gulf of Mexico Program web site at and click on the Gulf Guardian Award button.

Editor’s Note: For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call the Gulf of Mexico Program Office at 228-688-3726 or visit our web site at