What is AAUS?
In 1977, for the purpose of establishing clear standards and increasing safety, the federal government implemented oversight regulations for the commercial diving industry. These highly rigorous standards threatened to severely impact the ability of scientists to perform underwater research at their institutions. In 1979, The American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS), submitted arguments to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requesting an exemption from the commercial requirements. AAUS argued that the scientific community had operated under self-regulation and consensual standards for over 20 years and had achieved an accident incidence rate lower than the commercial diving industry. After extensive negotiation and Congressional hearings, a final ruling was issued in 1982, granting a scientific exemption. This exemption waives many of the OSHA requirements that would otherwise apply to scientific diving programs and would impede or prevent the performance of scientific research under water.
What Does AAUS Do?
A primary contribution of the AAUS to the Scientific Diving community is the promulgation of The AAUS Standards for Scientific Diving Certification and Operation of Scientific Diving Programs. A consensual guideline for scientific diving programs, this document is the "Standard" of the scientific diving community. Followed by all AAUS Organizational Members (of which Saint Mary’s College is one), this standard codifies the operation of scientific diving programs and, as a result, enables reciprocity between institutions employing diving for research purposes. The AAUS Standards are used at educational and research based institutions throughout the United States and in many foreign countries. Peer reviewed within the AAUS on a regular basis, these standards represents the consensus of the scientific diving community on both procedures and technologies. Besides maintaining state of the art standards for safe scientific diving, AAUS develops diving statistics, promotes training and information exchange, and offers scholarships for projects employing scientific diving and which encourage young scholars to pursue careers related to the underwater world. AAUS membership is available to both individuals and organizations.
Scientific Diving at Saint Mary’s College
Saint Mary’s College is an AAUS Organizational Member, and as a result follows the AAUS standards for scientific diving. To meet these requirements, SMC maintains a Dive Safety Manual which addresses the implementation of AAUS standards at SMC and delineates SMC’s procedures for training scientific divers. The SMC diving program is overseen by a Diving Safety Officer (DSO) and a Diving Control Board (DCB) made up of SMC Faculty and experts from other institutions. In order for students at SMC to take part in joint institutional field schools, (Bermuda, for example) they must meet the training requirements for certification as a Scientific Diver-in-Training (SDIT).These requirements are considerably more extensive than those applied to a ‘recreational diver’. SMC provides all required training needed for both the SDIT and full Scientific Diver certification. For additional information, please contact Saint Mary’s DSO Dr. Stephen E. Smith at [email protected].