Journalism students cover underwater NASA mission

FIU digital media student Bruno Grundy got the filmmaker’s chance of lifetime when he dove 60 feet below to the FIU Aquarius Reef Base.

Grundy was one of 21 seniors in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s multimedia capstone course challenged to report on four NASA astronauts taking residence at the world’s only undersea research lab this summer for the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO).

Featuring Aquarius’ mission control center; the nearly six-mile boat drive off the coast of Key Largo; and his descent to the base to record the aquanauts’ underwater training for space, Grundy is using a 13-minute short film to highlight the emotional journey of Aquarius.

“There’s so many different ways to tell news,” Grundy said. “For me, it’s tough to be creative when I have to write an article and can’t blend in emotions with facts. I want this piece to be cinematic, not focusing so much on the tools or techniques the aquanauts are using, but on the emotional component of the entire diving and training experience.”

Students in journalism professor Juliet Pinto's multimedia capstone course pose at the Aquarius mission control center in Islamorada, FL.

Students in journalism professor Juliet Pinto’s multimedia capstone course pose at the Aquarius mission control center in Islamorada, FL.

The course, taught by journalism professor Juliet Pinto, allows students to showcase what they have learned in the classroom, including selecting story topics; designing story boards; and producing stories through written articles, photo slideshows and videos. Pinto, along with two certified scuba divers, accompanied Grundy down to the base to gather b-roll for his film.

“We had seen videos of Aquarius, but being able to experience the base, aquanauts and marine life was extraordinary – it was sensory overload,” Pinto said. “This was an incredible opportunity for our students to learn how to cover scientific research in a way that is compelling and accurate. This can go a long way with changing audience perception of science and even with influencing policy.”

Journalism major Rebekah Keida spent time above water interviewing Thomas Potts, director of the Aquarius Reef Base. Keida is writing an article on disaster planning and aquanaut safety in the case of extreme weather events.

“Florida is amazing, but it’s a paradise on a thin line. We’re very sensitive to natural events like hurricanes and floods,” Keida said. “I was always interested in learning how they maintain the base and devise and implement plans to make sure everyone is safe.”

NEEMO 18 is the second NASA mission to take up residence at the undersea research lab since FIU assumed operations in 2013. Activities on the ocean floor will inform future International Space Station and exploration activities.

Aquarius, supported by FIU’s Medina Aquarius Program in the College of Arts & Sciences, provides unparalleled access to study coral reefs and marine life while also offering opportunities to test state-of-the-art undersea technology, train specialized divers and astronauts. Scientists can dive and live aboard Aquarius for days, even weeks at a time.

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