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Underwater Exploration

Course Description

The underwater environment is not one that most people have the oppportunity to encounter.  Most people that are submerged in an aquatic environment do so via snorkel. Only 1% of all people in the United States are certified SCUBA divers.  But, SCUBA offers the possibility of complete sumersion in this underwater world. Even so, SCUBA is limited in that one can only recreationally dive to 130 feet.  The ocean is vast and deep. Beyond 130 feet several other techniques are used to explore the underwater world. One of them is by using ummanned submersibles called Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs).  This course will introduce students to the deep-sea via video and photographs collected from a ROV funded by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Students will also be involved with helping to develop a software program that is aimed at automatic organsim detection. In order to do this, students are required to learn taxonomic hierarchy, animal identification, and Tator (the software program developed by CVision AI) use.  The FathomNet Animal guide, hosted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), will be utilized to assist with species identification. Along the way, questions about biodiversity, organism distribution and abundance will be addressed. This course also provides the opportunity for SCUBA certification as part of the course.  For those that have physical or financial limitations, an independent project will be developed in collaboration with the course instructor and T.A. Students who will complete an open water SCUBA diving course (including an eLearning portion) will do so through a certified dive shop in the Dallas area (which entails the completion of an online course and preparation for two days of pool dives, two days of open water dives). Students who choose to develop an independent project will utilize the skills they develop throughout the semester to ask their own question, develop an experimental design, collect data (from FathomNet and/or Tator), and write a laboratory report and complete an oral presentation to the class.  


Course Materials

Most recent syllabus can be found here. This syllabus may change for future iterations of the course.

A PDF download of the lab manual can be found here.  Instructors can access an instructor annotated version by e-mailing me at:


This lab manual and curriculum was prepared by Carolann Stone, Abigail Fritz, and Deanna Soper, Ph.D. at the University of Dallas using funds granted from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation using Federal awards under award NA19OAR0110405 from NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NOAA or the U.S. Department of Commerce.