Discovery Deep Launches Kelp Forest Project
Between March 18th and 20th, Discovery Deep team members Nic Fuller, Rebecca Ziegler and Frank Stopa convened in San Diego, California to launch our Kelp Forest Project. In collaboration with Ocean Sanctuaries, a non profit marine conservation foundation based in San Diego, San Diego-based divers Bethy Driscoll and Jade Sommer, and Orange County, California diver David Hershman, the team spent the weekend diving off Point Loma and then at La Jolla Cove capturing video and 360-degree video to document the state of the kelp forests off the California coast.
On Saturday the 19th, the team worked with Captain David Hershman who took them to the area off the coast of Point Loma. They conducted two dives at the Broomtail site followed by one more dive at the Christmas Reef site. "The water was cool - in the mid-50's at depth - and the visibility was maybe 15 feet at best. Still we got a good appreciation for what the winter storms and El Nino had done to the kelp. Everywhere we looked we saw stalks of kelp broken off about two to threefrom the bottom," commented Stopa. "Despite that we did manage to collect some footage of the decimation, not to mention the overabundance of purple sea urchins, which eat the kelp."
On Sunday the 20th, Fuller, Ziegler and Stopa dove at La Jolla Cove north of San Diego to survey the status of the kelp there withe Driscoll and Sommer. After realizing the kelp was essentially gone, they conducted a shallower dive to capture video of the abundance of species in the water. The highlights of the day included a visit by a young sea lion who dropped right in amongst the divers. They also spent a fair amount of the dive snooping for horn sharks, which showed a willingness to come out of their rock crevices and pose for our cameras.
All in all the weekend was a good start to the project. Team members will continue their visits to La Jolla and sites closer up toward Los Angeles as the kelp recovers in the expectation that they'll document the difference between the regrown forests and the decimation they experienced this past weekend. The end goal will be the creation of 360-degree video vignettes of the kelp and a virtual reality tour of a representative kelp forest.