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The Need to Breathe: Alpena Office Builds a Research Dive Team
Midwest Region, January 8, 2013
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Steve Hensler (right) administers oxygen and comforts Margaret Hutton (middle) while Justin Chiotti (left) assists in a mock drill to practice their first aid and oxygen administration skills.
Steve Hensler (right) administers oxygen and comforts Margaret Hutton (middle) while Justin Chiotti (left) assists in a mock drill to practice their first aid and oxygen administration skills. - Photo Credit: Eric Stadig

Staff from the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO), Waterford Substation, attended an oxygen administration first aid course as a step towards completing the requirements for SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) certification for the Department of the Interior. The course was taught at the Huron SCUBA dive shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan and focused on the ability to assist and administer oxygen to a distressed diver.

Diving can be very rewarding but it can also be dangerous if done incorrectly. Primary injuries that occur to SCUBA divers are decompression illnesses, which include decompression sickness (DCS), or the bends, and aertial gas embolism (AGE). Both illnesses can be serious and require further medical treatment. By administering oxygen as soon as signs and symptoms are recognized, the diver has an increased chance of making a full recovery.

Many divers in the Great Lakes visit the waters that connect Lake Huron and Lake Erie, which include the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers, and Lake St. Clair. The draw for SCUBA divers includes multiple shipwrecks in the area, along with the native wildlife that utilize these structures for shelter.

Service employees from the Waterford Substation during the spring, summer, and fall months are commonly within these areas, sampling for threatened, commercial, and sports fish species. Due to the amount of people exploiting this area, the new training will allow us to provide assistance to any distressed diver as the situation arises.

The oxygen administration first aid course fulfills one of the requirements to become a diver for the Department of the Interior. Once fully certified, employees from the Waterford Substation will be able to assist other offices within Region 3 when SCUBA assistance is needed.

Once a SCUBA team is assembled, we will be able to better assess the effectiveness of Service projects in rivers and lakes, especially within the St. Clair/Detroit River System. Such projects include assessing the artificial spawning reefs placed near Belle Isle and Fighting Island in the Detroit River and the in the Middle Channel of the St. Clair River. The reefs provide necessary spawning habitat for threatened species, such as the Lake Sturgeon and Northern Madtom, along with important commercial and sports fish, such as Lake Whitefish and Walleye. Made of limestone and fieldstone, the reefs should have interstitial spaces to protect the eggs. As a future dive team, the Waterford Substation will be able to confirm that sediment from upstream is not filling in these necessary spaces on the spawning reefs.


Contact Info: Margaret Hutton, 248-891-2762, margaret_hutton@fws.gov



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