Mucky Research – A scientific look at the world famous critters!

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Muck diving has gathered worldwide fame in recent years, underwater photographers and scuba diving enthusiasts will travel across the world to experience the weird and wonderful world of muck diving.

Luke GordonLuke GordonLuke GordonLuke GordonSoutheast Asia currently boasts the best muck diving sites in the world, top destinations such as Lembeh Strait and Ambon in Indonesia as well as Anilao and Dauin in The Philippines, attract thousands of divers every year. Traditionally this relatively new diving world has been ignored by the majority of marine scientists, scientific research has focused primarily around the rich ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangrove swamps, with good reason too.

Luke GordonLuke Gordon2014/15 marked the start of PhD research which asked questions solely on this cryptic habitat, Maarten De Brauwer of Curtin University in Western Australia has set out on a quest to answer some basic and some very thought provoking questions. As the first person worldwide to dedicate their research to this unique habitat, questions addressing the diversity and abundance of creatures (cryptobenthic fauna as Maarten refers to them), diver impact on the unique marine life and the socioeconomic benefits of the industry will be looked at.

Luke Gordon

The S.M.U.R.F's are left in the water for nine days and then taken up to identify, count and measure the juvenile fish found inside. Local children take a keen interest in the process of finding the juvenile fish from each S.M.U.R.F, here at our make-shift lab we put together at Atmosphere Resort.

The S.M.U.R.F’s are left in the water for nine days and then taken up to identify, count and measure the juvenile fish found inside. Local children take a keen interest in the process of finding the juvenile fish from each S.M.U.R.F, here at our make-shift lab we put together at Atmosphere Resort.

2014/15 marked the start of PhD research which asked questions solely on this cryptic habitat, Maarten De Brauwer of Curtin University in Western Australia has set out on a quest to answer some basic and some very thought provoking questions. As the first person worldwide to dedicate their research to this unique habitat, questions addressing the diversity and abundance of creatures (cryptobenthic fauna as Maarten refers to them), diver impact on the unique marine life and the socioeconomic benefits of the industry will be looked at.

Luke Gordon

With the industry surrounding muck diving gathering worldwide attention it should be a priority for us to understand the lifecycle and threats that face these weird and wonderful organisms.

Eric Barrientos, Divemaster. Eric comes from a family of Divemasters and has worked all of his life in the diving industry throughout the Central Philippines. A larger than life personality allows him to excel.

Eric Barrientos, Divemaster. Eric comes from a family of Divemasters and has worked all of his life in the diving industry throughout the Central Philippines. A larger than life personality allows him to excel.

Je-An Binarao, Open Water SCUBA Instructor & Divemaster. Je-an initially worked as Boat Crewman, but also showed a desire to professional progress. He wanted to develop skills that would enable him to share his passion for the ocean. He completed his PADI Divemaster certification in 2013 and then worked hard to complete his Open Water Instructor Certification which he now uses to teach others to dive and learn about the underwater world.

Je-An Binarao, Open Water SCUBA Instructor & Divemaster. Je-an initially worked as Boat Crewman, but also showed a desire to professional progress. He wanted to develop skills that would enable him to share his passion for the ocean. He completed his PADI Divemaster certification in 2013 and then worked hard to complete his Open Water Instructor Certification which he now uses to teach others to dive and learn about the underwater world.

Marvin Pueblos, boat captain. Marvin has always driven, piloted or captained vehicles. Having driven large vehicles earlier in his career he came to Atmosphere as a young boat captain. He helped design Atmosphere Resort & Spa’s main ‘bangka’ diving boat and having joined the resort at the beginning is now the Resort’s lead Boat Captain.

Marvin Pueblos, boat captain. Marvin has always driven, piloted or captained vehicles. Having driven large vehicles earlier in his career he came to Atmosphere as a young boat captain. He helped design Atmosphere Resort & Spa’s main ‘bangka’ diving boat and having joined the resort at the beginning is now the Resort’s lead Boat Captain.

Arjay Salac is a Divemaster and one of the figure heads for Atmosphere Resort & Spa's dive centre. Arjay is from a family of fishermen who live on the adjacent plot of land to the resort, after initially being employed as a landscaper when the resort first opened Arjay took a keen interest in the dive world around him. Enthusiasm and work ethic allowed him to move into a boat crewman position. Through continued excellence in the role he was offered the opportunity of being put through the resorts PADI Divemaster scholarship. Needless to say Arjay excelled and six years later is now one of the most respected dive guides in the area, eagle eyes are a description which fit Arjay perfectly.

Arjay Salac is a Divemaster and one of the figure heads for Atmosphere Resort & Spa’s dive centre. Arjay is from a family of fishermen who live on the adjacent plot of land to the resort, after initially being employed as a landscaper when the resort first opened Arjay took a keen interest in the dive world around him. Enthusiasm and work ethic allowed him to move into a boat crewman position. Through continued excellence in the role he was offered the opportunity of being put through the resorts PADI Divemaster scholarship. Needless to say Arjay excelled and six years later is now one of the most respected dive guides in the area, eagle eyes are a description which fit Arjay perfectly.

For more information on this unique world and insights into the research currently being conducted visit https://crittersresearch.com. A huge thank you to Maarten De Brauwer and Curtin University for allowing me to be involved in this research project, a huge thank you also to Atmosphere Resort & Spa and all of their staff members for allowing me the opportunity to document this and their story. A special thank you to Adam Detre, Ulrika Kroon, Saila Kitola and of course Atmosphere’s marine biologist Daniel ‘Frogfish’ Geary.

See my website for more underwater photography.

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About Author

Luke Gordon is a conservation photographer and marine biologist from Kent, UK. He is currently based in Victoria, BC, Canada, over the years Luke has built up a passion for marine conservation & photography working around the world in countries such as Madagascar, Fiji, The Philippines, The Maldives, Indonesia & Ecuador, working with conservationists such as Dr.Andrea Marshall, WCS & WWF. Starting in 2008 Luke has worked consistently in the marine conservation sector for the last seven years, working for & with various NGO’s across the globe he has been heavily involved in empowering local communities to successfully manage their marine resources. In 2008 Luke worked with NGO’s in North Madagascar helping to establish MPA’s and assess the biodiversity on reefs in Diego Suarez Bay. 2009 & 2010 saw him work in Fiji for the first time conducting marine resource inventories around the western coast of Gau, during this time his love for photography started to grow, capturing the unique marine life around the island, including a resident population of M.alfredi (Reef Manta Ray).

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