FIU students descend on Aquarius

Andrew Shantz

Andrew Shantz admits that he’s never wanted a nine-to-five job. Instead, he searched for a career in the water, diving.

“The more you do it, the more interesting and exciting it becomes,” he said. “It’s kind of the opposite of most traditional jobs.”

Shantz is a Ph.D. student in professor Deron Burkepile’s lab. During his time at Aquarius this week, he is surveying reef fish and macroalgae along the deep reef. He hopes to gather clues as to what’s needed to protect reefs.

This traveler has been chasing a non-traditional job clear across the country, and world. Shantz earned a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology and minor in Environmental Biology from the University of Colorado Boulder and a Master of Science in Marine Biology from Northeastern University while also studying coral-predator interactions in Moorea, French Polynesia.

“Shallow reefs are not doing well, in part because of hydrogen related issues, overfishing and warming temperatures,” said Shantz, who is also a co-founder of the Marine Aquarium Club at FIU. “There’s an idea that deep reefs are doing better because the water is cooler, fish are more protected, they’re less susceptible to storms and ship grounding. But because of the depth, we don’t know a lot about deeper reefs.”

Like the other three student researchers, Shantz feels fortunate be part of the FIU Aquarius mission. Despite close quarters, even smaller sleeping areas and dried camping food to eat, his anxiety lies elsewhere.

“My biggest concern is that there are so many great people who’ve made this happen, and I want to make sure we get the data we want and need,” he said. “[The Aquarius team] does an insane amount of work in crazy conditions so we have the opportunity to do this. So I need to hold up my end here and do the work.”

– By Jamie Giller

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