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Brave Duo to Dive Unexplored Waters

Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation has amassed an incredible and diverse group of adventurers for our Microplastics project. Below, ASC’s own Emily Stifler Wolfe tells the story of two daring women who are headed to Kamchatka to dive—and collect samples—where no two have gone before. Grimaldi and Vagaska sent in these videos and photos from their training dives in the U.K., as they prepare to take on new waters.

A small-spotted catshark gives adventurer Giulia Grimaldi the eye. (Photo by Giulia Grimaldi)
A small-spotted catshark gives adventurer Giulia Grimaldi the eye in Pembrokeshire, Wales. (Photo by Giulia Grimaldi)

Giulia Grimaldi and Barbora Vagaska are headed to explore new waters—literally—off the shores of eastern Russia this summer.

The two scientists at the University College London have signed on to gather water samples for the ASC Microplastics Project during their scuba diving expedition to the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Commander Islands, and potentially on Sakhalin, another remote Russian island.

“I never had really thought of it as a diving destination,” said Grimaldi, an Italian dive instructor and a molecular biologist. “But when we dove in Russia last year, we met local divers who spoke highly of Kamchatka.”

A tompot blenny at Swanage Pler, Dorset, UK. (Photo by Giulia Grimaldi)
A tompot blenny playing hide-and-seek at Swanage Pler, Dorset, UK. (Photo by Giulia Grimaldi)

Most of Kamchatka is quite well dived, she explained, but they’ll be headed out with locals to new un-dived sites. The Commander Islands, a group of sparsely populated, treeless islands east of Kamchatka in the Bering Sea, are relatively unexplored by divers.

As ASC expands its marine research from surface water to below the surface, working with skilled, adventurous divers such as these women is key. They our best bet for gaining samples from such remote locations.

Grimaldi met the Slovakian Vagaska, who is in between postdoctoral studies in developmental biology, when they were working in a lab together at the Institute of Child Health.

Grimaldi taught Vagaska to dive, and they’ve since traveled to places including the Red Sea, White Sea, and Iceland to explore the underwater world. On the expedition, they expect to see rocky reef habitats with walls, pinnacles, canyons, and gullies rich in marine life.

“It is a relatively similar underwater landscape as northwest Scotland, but the marine life tends to be much larger in size,” Grimaldi said. As a result, they feel well-prepared by the training they have been doing in the U.K., which has also produced the photos in this post.

There will likely be crabs, sea anemones, sea urchins, sea lions, giant octopus, and nudibranchs, among other aquatic creatures, and the water temperature will max out at around 39°F (4°C ), with underwater visibility varying from 3-15 feet (1-5 meters).

As far as what type of microplastics the water they collect will contain, we’ll have to wait to find out.

Watch Grimaldi and Vagaska during a training dive in Portland, U.K.: 

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