Aquarius Habitat is Unique in the World

Aquarius Habitat is Unique in the World

Tim Grollimund[

Author: Tim Grollimund

Date Published: January 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-3705073-1-3

Publisher: Shakespir Edition

Copyright © Apex Global Solutions LLC 2017. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the prior and express written permission of the copyright holder. All inquiries via timgrollimund.com


To Dad, who knew I loved the sea, and always encouraged me to pursue my passion.


When I moved to the Florida Keys in 2009, I had one objective in mind. Simply, to become highly proficient as an underwater photographer. For the previous several years, I had helpd my brother take care of our ailing parents. A few days before our Dad passed away (Mom had passed several weeks before), my dad said something to me that was simple, yet profound. “Go get in the water where you belong”. I will never forget that. He knew how much I loved the sea, and for fifteen years I had not been in the water. I honor my father’s wish every time I jump off a boat.

My first foray in underwater photography was in the 1980s and 1990s. Dad loved seeing my seemingly endless slide shows in that [film/E-6] era. He knew, in my heart of hearts, I needed to be by the sea. So after he passed away, I came to the Florida Keys – and I don’t plan on living out of sight of the ocean, ever.

There are 75 ebooks in the collection. My goal is to produce one per week, which will run through all of 2017 to the middle of 2018. I will post new releases on my blog site: timgrollimund.com. Stay tuned, it’s going to be an entertaining ride! 

The ebooks will be priced at a discount during the Pre-order period ($0.99). On the Release Date the prices will increase to $2.99 – so get ‘em while they’re discounted! Make sure you go to my blog and get on the list for the Pre-Release Discounts!

The Reporter

The column as it appeared in The Reporter on August 19, 2011

The following images show how the column was presented in The Reporter.

Aquarius Reef Base

Underwater research facility in the Florida Keys

Aquarius Reef Base

Kids have dreams. If you live your dream as an adult, it’s called pursuing a passion, or living life with a purpose. This week I met a man who is passionate about what he does, has a definite purpose, and is living his dream. Meet Dr. Chris Martens, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Dr. Martens grew up in Marathon, and his love for the ocean is evident in his life’s work.

Inside Aquarius Reef Base with Dr. Martens

He is leading a mission called the “Ocean Acidification Project” at the Aquarius Reef Base. Commonly known as “the Habitat”, as you slide south from Molasses Reef towards Tavernier, it’s marked by a large yellow platform, about four miles out on Conch Reef. My friend Frazier Nivens arranged for me to accompany him to an interview he was shooting with Dr. Martens, and I jumped at the chance to watch the filming and ask a few questions of my own.

Descending to Aquarius Reef Base

And to top it off, I got to dive with the mission crew and go inside to visit with the scientists and technicians. What a blast. I have been fortunate to be able to dive the Habitat a few times since I’ve been here. It’s an amazing place, and it requires special permission to drop in on what is a truly unique spot on the planet. But going inside was the icing on the cake.

Aquarius Reef Base is unique in the world

There literally is no other place like this on earth. It is the only operating undersea research laboratory in the world. Imagine that. Something else the world does not have that we do. Like the only coral reef system in the continental US, or our very own coral reef state park, or the great nonprofit organizations based here that are making a difference.

Resident Goliath Grouper

As a dive site, it’s sensational since the animals that live underneath and around the habitat are used to divers. It’s pretty easy to get close to the resident goliath groupers, and swim among the schools of snappers that are always there. It also lends itself to some unique photo opportunities. The most challenging setup is shooting reflections by the entrance portal and trying to keep the reflective surface smooth, all the fish aligned, and stay still enough not to disrupt the scene. The first time I dove there I was with Stephen Frink, in his Digital Immersion class. We had a humongous grouper between us, and we both clicked our shutters within a second of each other. A true reciprocal view, and loads of fun. Wall-worthy stuff.

Divers approach Aquarius Reef Base

But more important things take place there than being an incredible dive site. Check out their web site -  http://aquarius.fiu.edu/  - to get a feel for the scope of projects that are conducted here. Aquarius is part of Florida International University. Everything from testing the newest technology to training astronauts is within the purview of the Habitat.

Plenty of photo opps on Aquarius Reef Base

The Ocean Acidification project is measuring changes on the pH of the ocean in new ways. Dr. Martens has partnerships with several companies that have designed real-time equipment that measures a wide range of chemical changes that take place. Fascinating, as Mr. Spock would say. And quite ocean tekkie, to say the least. In this undiscovered world of the sea, Dr. Martens is making innovative advances that tell us more about how the oceans react to changes in carbon dioxide levels. As the ocean absorbs more CO2, the pH changes – it becomes lower – more acidic.

Spotted eagle ray cruises by Aquarius Reef Base

Just what is ocean acidification? To understand that, we need to get a sense of pH values. The lower the measure of pH of a liquid, the higher the acidic properties. A pH of 7 is neutral. Gastric acid is a 1, milk of magnesia is a 10. Seawater is around 8.1, and has been declining over the last decades. Why is that important to us in the Keys?

Underneath Aquarius Reef Base

According to Dr. Martens, “the drop in pH is lowering the concentration of dissolved carbonate ion, one of the two ingredients organisms need to make calcium carbonate. As pH drops by 0.1 units, carbonate drops by 10 percent! The drop of 0.4 predicted for the end of this century or sooner should lower carbonate ion concentration by about 40 percent. If you are a calcifying organism like a coral, this change makes it hard to make limestone skeleton material. Since corals make reefs this makes life tougher for many organisms and others make take over, such as sponges”.

The air pocket on the entrance platform provides a mirror image

Bad news for hermit crabs. And for everything else that uses calcium carbonate minerals – like lobsters. Since Monroe county supplies most of the lobster catch in Florida, this is real serious stuff. Although some would argue no mini-season would be a good thing, no regular lobster season would be beyond belief. It’s already having a detrimental effect on oyster harvests on the west coast. See the web site for the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory for a web site devoted to ocean acidification.

The Goliath Grouper parks wherever he likes

On this mission, the team will examine how respiration in an area called the near-bottom-benthic boundary interacts with global acidification. This is the local component of acidification caused by residents of the reef. They are looking at the respiratory process of what happens normally on the bottom, and what happens when that meets the increasing CO2 level coming from the top – the part absorbed by the ocean in seemingly ever-increasing levels. Their objective is to understand this impact and how it affects the growth of coral, and includes measuring the role of sponges in the chemical change process. Before now, the equipment to conduct this type of research did not exist.

World class research in a world class destination with world class people. I gotta tell ya, for a small town we really do have a lot going on. Again, Key Largo is at the top of the chart. This island is much, much larger than its land mass.


About The Author

About Tim

I am a freelance photographer and PADI divemaster based in Key Largo, Florida. After a career in banking, marketing and consulting I moved to Key Largo in August 2009 to pursue my passion for underwater photography.

In December 2010 I won the underwater photography contest conducted during the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park 50th Anniversary Celebration. That led to a gig as the scuba diving columnist for the local newspaper.

It also led to a direct involvement with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary as a member of the Ecosystem Protection Working Group and as an Alternate member of the FKNMS Advisory Council.

From January 2011 to April 2014 I wrote a bi-weekly column called DIVE TIME for The Reporter in the Upper Keys. Each time I wrote a column, I included a collection of images for the editor to choose from for the print edition. The editor did not have space available in the print edition to run all the images. I always felt a little “short-sheeted”, since all the photos I selected, to me, belonged with the column. I have always wanted to publish the columns as ebooks, and include all the images.

As the newspaper column developed, I became enamored with the behaviors of the critters I was spending many hours with on the reefs of the Upper Keys. As an extension of that curiosity, I ended up spending over a year as a representative on a working group for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and for a short while, as an Alternate member of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council.

I spent endless hours reading the science and interviewing any scientist that would talk to me, with the objective of conveying their findings to the public in understandable language. As all this progressed, I wrote more and more about the science. I have compiled these as a series, which I call the “Sanctuary Science Series”.

Thank you for your interest in the ocean. It has been a great learning experience for me to find a subject, go through the discovery process by reading the science, and now, through this ebook format, to expand on the concepts and the images from the original columns published in The Reporter.

All the best to you as you dive with me to learn more about marine life.

Best Regards,


Email: [email protected]

Connect with me:
Gallery Site: http://timgimages.com
Blog: http://timgrollimund.com
Shakespir Interview: https://www.Shakespir.com/interview/timgimages
Shakespir profile page: https://www.Shakespir.com/profile/view/timgimages 

Other eBooks, Prints and Keepsakes

By Tim Grollimund

Wreck Series

The Key Largo area has several wrecks that attract divers from all over the world. 

The wrecks that get the most attention in the Key Largo area are the Spiegel Grove, Duane and Benwood. 

  • Spiegel Grove: the most popular wreck in Key Largo. Over 500 feet long, diving depth from 65 to 130 feet. 
  • Duane and Bibb: Sunk as artificial reefs in the 1980s, these were the trend setters for using decommissioned Navy ships as artificial reefs in the Florida Keys. The exposed prop on the Bibb is a highlight of that deep dive.
  • Benwood: A great spot for diving and checkout dives for newbies. It’s a shallow dive, also well known for quality night dives.

See all the titles here: Wreck Series on timgrollimund.com

Sanctuary Science Series[

Bonus: The first ebook in this series if Free! Look for “Aquarius Habitat is unique in the world”

This series focuses on a wide range of scientific topics. Several of these were associated with my trips to Aquarius Reef Base. The others were primarily from the time I spent as a Working Group Member and an Alternate Representative for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. 

There are 25 ebooks in this series. A loose generalization of the topics includes:

  • A summary of the FKNMS Conditions report that formed the basis of information for the Working Groups 
  • The connectivity and resilience of the reef system
  • The size, shape and placement of protected areas in the Florida Keys
  • The relevance of spawning areas and the importance of temporal restrictions during spawning seasons
  • The food chain, and how fishing pressure has potential unintended consequences

Over the years I wrote the newspaper columns, these topics generated the most spirited discussions in the Working Group meetings. Only time will tell if the conservation or the commercial interests prevail. In the next couple of years new regulations and boundaries will be released. Based on my experience, extreme opposition from some groups to increase protected areas may have a negative environmental impact on the health of the reef. The Florida Keys are in trouble. It’s all outlined in the Sanctuary Science Series.

See the full list here:  Sanctuary Series on timgrollimund.com

Marine Life Series

There are over 30 ebooks in this group. Many of the columns were species-specific. These were the most fun to write, since they were based on an innate curiosity for something I saw or wanted to know about a particular animal.

Here are some of the topics in this group:

  • Iconic species: eels, eagle rays, Goliath groupers, whale sharks, angelfish, barracuda, octopus, and more… 
  • Coral restoration efforts in the Florida Keys
  • Behavior: cleaning stations, schooling, relationships on the reef
  • Small critters: hamlets, butterfly fish, trunk fishes, wrasses, blennies, damsels, and more…
  • Gamefish and others: hogfish, permit, porgies, scorpionfish, snook, spadefish, trumpetfish, filefish, and more…

The variety of life on the reef can be quite exhilarating. I hope you share my enthusiasm as you dive deep into this abundance of species. See the full list here: Marine Life Series on timgrollimund.com

Wall Art and Paper Prints

The images you see on these pages are available on my website. Each image in the ebook has a link to the order page on the site.  

There are many sizes and styles of prints. Personally I prefer the Metal Prints. They are the most durable, bright and crisp presentations of the image, and come ready to hang. 

When you click on any of the images in the text, you will see the one you selected and many more to check out. Visit the gallery website at: www.timgimages.com

Keepsakes and Phone Cases

The coffee mugs, mousepads and phone cases are the most popular items.

You can also make post cards, key chains and coasters if that floats your boat!

Have some fun when you order the images and keepsakes – I certainly had a lot of fun
creating the images and writing the columns!

These make great gifts for your scuba diving friends! Visit the gallery website at: www.timgimages.com

Advertising and Editorial Uses

Need images for your ad campaign or editorial piece?

Contact me directly and we can discuss your specific use.

Email me: [email protected]
or Click to Call: 305-508-5545

Table of Contents

  1. Aquarius habitat is unique in the world
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. Introduction
  4. The Reporter
  5. Aquarius Reef Base
  6. About The Author
  7. Other eBooks, Prints and Keepsakes

Aquarius Habitat is Unique in the World

There literally is no other place like this on earth. It is the only operating undersea research laboratory in the world. As a dive site, it’s sensational since the animals that live underneath and around the habitat are used to divers. It’s pretty easy to get close to the resident goliath groupers, and swim among the schools of snappers that are always there. But more important things take place there than being an incredible dive site. Everything from testing the newest technology to training astronauts is within the purview of Aquarius Reef Base.

  • ISBN: 9781370507313
  • Author: Tim Grollimund
  • Published: 2017-01-08 21:05:17
  • Words: 2634
Aquarius Habitat is Unique in the World Aquarius Habitat is Unique in the World