Scientific Diving Success Story: Allison Place

Allison Place is a biologist aide at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey. SCUBA diving is a big part of her job, as she dives in various exhibits at the aquarium, including the 760,000-gallon Ocean Realm, the 550,000-gallon Shark Realm, the West African River Experience, and several of the smaller Caribbean- themed exhibits. The purpose of most of the dives is to clean the aquarium tanks, including scrubbing algae off the decor and glass, and vacuuming gravel, along with basic exhibit repairs. Allison also participates in dive shows, during which she wears a full-face mask with microphone, allowing her to communicate to guests (an experience she first engaged in through Penn State Science Diving).

These shows  give guests a basic introduction to the animals in the Ocean Realm and to scuba diving in general. A stand-by diver is present for every dive. The stand-by diver assists divers in gearing up and is available to perform a rescue in the event of an emergency. In the large exhibits, diving is accomplished in buddy teams. As one diver performs routine maintenance tasks, the buddy diver watches for animal traffic; the animals have never attacked, but they may accidentally collide with  divers and potentially cause injury. The divers carry custom-made rattles to alert their buddy if an animal approaches too closely.

As a part of the husbandry team, Allison also engages in standard exhibit maintenance, preparation of fish diets, maintenance of filtration systems, and microculture. Diving in the smaller exhibits is a bit different as there is insufficient space for diving in a full SCUBA setup. Instead, Allison wears a weight harness and hookah (surface-supplied air) rig. Because these are solo dives, she is attached to a tether line, and a stand-by diver tends the line from the surface. Allison also carries a small spare-air cylinder and safety sausage.

girl diving with vaccum