The first SCUBA dive I went on was in a kelp forest off the coast of southern California. I was with my open water scuba class, kneeling on the sandy bottom 15 feet under the waves that were rolling onto the beach in Malibu. Cautiously and deliberately, we carried out the exercises that our dive instructors dictated with their giant hand gestures and creative underwater pantomiming, all of us a bit uncertain about our abilities to operate our gear and not fail our class (which for a type-A UCLA student like me was almost as depressing as an underwater malfunction of my life support system.) We completed the skills and drills portion of our training dive and our instructors, who had all conducted ecological research in kelp forests (amongst other places) and were training us to become scientific divers, took us through a tour of the kelp. They pointed out all kinds of neat invertebrates and ecological interactions that I would have otherwise missed, like the honeycomb patterns of tiny bryozoans growing on the blades of the giant kelp or the sea hares climbing their way up the floating kelp stalks. Half a year later, these forest were the kinds of places that became my place of work when I dove for a marine science lab at UCSB doing surveys of rocky reefs in the Santa Barbara Channel. And this summer, I got to go back into the kelp just for fun with one of the girls with whom I took that first SCUBA class.
My friend Irrawaddy (who was also one of the members of my group research project in Mo’orea) and I went into the kelp forests in Palos Verdes this summer. Driving up the PCH towards the beach on a sunny SoCal day, we reflected on how delightfully stereotypical our Californian lives could be. The beach that we decided to dive at was at the base of a luxury resort on the bluffs above the beach, and after walking past chic holidaymakers in our neoprene and SCUBA tanks, we managed to head out from the beach towards the kelp. Check out the photos below for all of the fish and fun we experienced in Palos Verdes.
Palos Verdes is also a place where the LA Waterkeepers do kelp forest restoration work. I dove with them last spring on one of their restoration projects where we removed purple sea urchins from an urchin barren so that the kelp could recover in that site. They have restored acres of kelp forests in southern California, You can check them out here. The boat that I went out on with LA Waterkeeper is currently broken, and they are trying to raise money to fix it. If you want to help them continue their restoration and education work, you can give to their fundraising page here.
Here are some photos from the dive!