AAUS Elections

Secretary Nominees

Jennie De La Cruz

Dive Lead

Samish Indian Nation DNR


Jennie De La Cruz’s life ambition is to explore the ocean as an underwater scientist. Jennie graduated from Towson University, Maryland, in 2018 with a B.S. in Organismal Biology & Ecology. Shortly after moving to Washington with her husband and daughter, she completed her Rescue Diver certification and was hired as a diver for the Eye-to-Eye Shark Dive program at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (PDZA). In this role, she promoted shark conservation to children, families, and military veterans through educational talks and shark tank diving experiences. Through PDZA she regularly performs husbandry dives, field dives, and continues to educate the public about the effects of climate change on the Salish Sea.

While attending a 5-week course at University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs (FHL) in 2022, Jennie fell irrevocably in love with the San Juan Islands. By the end of the 5-week course, she swore that she would find a way to stay. Before the last week of her course at FHL, she was hired in nearby Anacortes, WA, for conservation and diving-related work.  In addition to continuing to work part-time at the aquarium, Jennie now serves as Dive Lead and Natural Resources Technician II for the Samish Indian Nation Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Jennie is currently completing her Divemaster training, with the goal of acting as Samish’s Diving Safety Officer in the near future.

As a person whose life and career have been so intimately tied to AAUS, Jennie would be honored to serve on the Board of Directors as Secretary. Her strong passion for science and diving will allow her to further the Academy’s mission to advance and facilitate safe and productive scientific diving, while representing a female voice in the diving community for current and future scientific divers.

1. In what direction should the AAUS be heading in the next decade?

Within the next decade, the AAUS should strive to be recognized as the expert, scientific standard-setting body among the global scientific diving community. The Academy should prioritize higher diving education for scientific divers in leadership roles. Standardized training and e-learning opportunities will allow AAUS-certified Instructors, Diving Safety Officers, and Dive Leaders to provide the safest and most accessible instruction for scientific diving students that far exceed the standards of recreational instructor training.

Additionally, the AAUS will greatly benefit from increased communication, outreach, and support for scientific divers and organizational members. Increased communication and public outreach including more frequent AAUS meetings, networking opportunities, promotional events, and a stronger social media presence, will allow the academy to gain wider public recognition while subsequently promoting collaborations with other scientific diving entities. More support for scientific divers can be offered in the form of streamlined dive logging and reporting processes, specialty e-learning courses, and providing divers without an affiliated organization with opportunities to maintain their active status.

The AAUS should also increase accessibility and diversity for scientific divers. The Academy should focus on strong advocacy for minorities and underrepresented groups in scientific diving, increase scholarship opportunities, and strengthen partnerships and collaborations with other AAUS Organizational Members and scientific diving organizations around the world.

2. Describe your scientific diving experience and indicate its relevance to AAUS governance.

My professional experiences, from aquarium diving to being a Dive Lead for the Samish Indian Nation DNR, have allowed me to be involved in a wide spectrum of scientific diving. At PDZA, I gained experience performing husbandry dives on open-circuit, surface-supplied, and full-face mask hookah scuba in coldwater exhibits. This experience exposed me to diving with a high level of attention to detail, safety procedures, and comfort with public engagement.

Friday Harbor Labs allowed me to gain experience with independent dive planning and enforcement of AAUS safety standards. Thanks to the curriculum, I learned to appreciate the need for and importance of collaboration and efficient communication with other scientific divers in training as well as networking with professors and PhD candidates to further their own research initiatives or data collection.

In my current role as a Dive Lead at the Samish Indian Nation DNR, I was the catalyst behind the formation of an inter-agency collaboration which allows the Samish Dive Program to operate under the AAUS auspices of Shannon Point Marine Center. This partnership continues to provide me with valuable experience in communication and maintaining reciprocity with project partners, as well as honing my leadership skills as my organization prepares to operate as an AAUS OM in the future.

3. What relationships/networks/professional contacts/nonprofit board experiences do you have that will benefit AAUS by electing you to the AAUS BOD?

Throughout my diving career, I have managed to procure a strong and extensive network of people and organizations which has aided in my success as a professional diver. In addition to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and the Samish Indian Nation DNR, I maintain close personal and professional contacts with AAUS current and prior board members, Shannon Point Marine Center, Friday Harbor Labs, Rosario Marine Laboratory, Seattle Aquarium, WA Reef Check Foundation, and WA DNR, among others. My diverse experience and professional network allow me to better understand the needs of a variety of scientific diving programs and will subsequently allow me to successfully address these needs as a member of the AAUS BOD.

As a person with a heightened drive for networking and collaboration, and passion for scientific research and scuba diving, I believe that I am the ideal candidate for the AAUS Board of Directors Secretary position. In this role, it is my ambition to enliven the current progress of the AAUS and its Strategic Plan, offer new perspectives from the next generation of scientific divers, and strengthen the voice of AAUS in the national and global scientific diving community.






Lizzie McNamee

Florida Atlantic University


Lizzie McNamee serves as the Diving and Boating Safety Officer at Florida Atlantic University in southeastern Florida. Prior to joining FAU, Lizzie worked at Florida International University as the Boating Safety Officer and Assistant Dive Safety Officer. At FIU, Lizzie was a member of the support team for Aquarius Reef Base, the only active underwater research habitat and supported missions for the US Navy as well as NASA. Lizzie’s background is experiential education and outreach programs. Lizzie has experience with students of all ages and academic backgrounds. This allows her to approach scientific diving from a different perspective; by focusing on environmental identity and connection to nature, Lizzie helps her students find purpose in their underwater work. Lizzie has previously been the Scholarships chair on the AAUS Board of Directors. She authored the Diversity Scholarship for the AAUS Foundation; the purpose of which is to support students through the prerequisites for scientific diving. She also authored two new scholarships for DSOs to support continuing education; DSOs are the engine that keeps AAUS moving forward and should be encouraged to expand their knowledge as much as they encourage their students! She is currently the interim Secretary for AAUS.

Lizzie attended Boston University for her bachelor’s degree in marine science. She has since completed her Masters of Science in Environmental Science at FAU while working fulltime, and is completing a Masters of Education in Environmental Education this May. She has been an invited lecturer for Broward College and FAU to talk about her research on artificial reefs, as well as different ways students can get jobs in the marine science world. She currently volunteers as an instructor for DiveN2Life as well as on the DCB for SCUBAnauts, International. Lizzie is always excited to learn new things and listen to different perspective; an attribute that she will continue to bring to the AAUS BOD.


1. In what direction should the AAUS be heading in the next decade?


AAUS has gone through some incredible shifts in the past few years. From the meetings with OSHA and the new online learning platform, to becoming a certifying agency this past year! All of this work as strengthened the place of AAUS as the standards setting agency for scientific diving in the United States. None of these landmark movements would have been possible without the input of the AAUS community. In the next decade, I look forward to AAUS listening to its membership and moving forward to solidify these initiatives, continuing to hit the strategic goals outlined in their plan.

It has been exciting to witness the communication among the worldwide scientific diving community to create a global baseline training standard. By actively participating in these discussions, AAUS is cementing its place on the international platform.

2. Describe your scientific diving experience and indicate its relevance to AAUS governance.


Throughout my scientific diving career, I have worked at an aquarium, two non-profit education facilities, and two academic institutions. This variety has given me the opportunity to understand how different institutions utilize and implement scientific diving. From citizen science programs to saturation diving, AAUS needs to be able to fit the operating needs of all of these institutions, not just in their home waters, but abroad. The need for collaboration has been my biggest insight into the importance of AAUS standards. Volunteering with other OMs has been an incredible learning experience as to how other programs use AAUS standards to create safe learning environments and train the next generation of scientific divers.

My strong background in science has been an asset to my time as a DSO. I have had the privilege to join researchers in the field to work on projects from seagrass and coral, to sharks, fish, and artificial reefs. Every time I join divers in the field, I learn more about how our scientific diving program can best support our researchers. Working through my own research for my graduate degree allowed me to put a magnifying glass on our manual to make sure that we were finding the space for safety among practical application of the standards.

Over the past few years, I have been asked to join the AAUS BOD in different capacities; first as a Director-at-Large and the Scholarships Chair, and now as the Secretary. Each time, I have wholeheartedly jumped in with two feet, ready to take on the responsibility of the position and support AAUS and the BOD. This time, I am choosing to make that move; I have witnessed what AAUS can do for the scientific diving community and I am so excited to have the opportunity to be a part of it!

3. What relationships/networks/professional contacts/nonprofit board experiences do you have that will benefit AAUS by electing you to the AAUS BOD?


My position and experiences within the Florida State University System have given me a great base to collaborate. Networking is such an important part to running a successful program and I have gained so much insight from other DSOs. As such, I started a Florida DSO group which includes all Florida DSOs as well as a few AAUS OMs from neighboring states. Not only have we gotten together for dives, but local positions have been circulated in this chat so that new graduates may find local opportunities to jump start their careers!

My volunteer positions with other AAUS OMs like SCUBAnauts and DiveN2Life have led to amazing collaborations! I have planned and contributed to dives with FPAN and iCare to introduce our students to different ways that scuba is used as a tool in research and education. Not only this, but the interactions between the college students and young dive participants is a great learning opportunity for all; these occasions lead to mentorships and opportunities to discuss careers in research that may not exist otherwise.

I have always been of the mindset that open and honest communication is the best way forward. I appreciate all of the knowledge that I have gained, and hopefully shared, about standards, program implementation, and quality training practices. I would be honored to carry on this practice of collaboration and open sharing by continuing in the position of Secretary for AAUS.




AAUS Elections

Director at Large Nominees


Dan Abbott
DSO/Kelp Forest Program Director

Reef Check Foundation

I am running for the AAUS director-at-large position. I have over 20 years’ experience as an AAUS scientific diver and have been involved with many AAUS programs including university, non-profit, governmental, and a for-profit consulting OMs. I was originally certified as an AAUS diver through UC Berkeley, worked for Tenera Environmental for eight years, and am currently the Director of the Kelp Forest Monitoring Program at Reef Check where I oversee the largest subtidal monitoring program on the west coast. Throughout my career I have promoted and encouraged scientific diving efforts by serving as DSO, spearheading organizations’ applications to AAUS and overseeing a wide range of dive operations and instructing AAUS Scientific Diver courses. I joined the CDFW dive team in 2015, and the UCSC dive team in 2020. I’ve been a member of the AAUS Manual Review committee since 2015.

I believe that my experience diving with and overseeing a variety of dive programs, developing a wide range of training materials, collaborating across organizations, working with AAUS on standards development and manual review, and experience teaching scientific diving skills to hundreds of divers from a wide range of backgrounds make me a good candidate for this position.


1. In what direction should the AAUS be heading in the next decade?

The world of scientific diving is changing as more groups are engaging in this work and AAUS should grow and adapt to include these efforts. Once solely the purview of university-trained scientists, scientific diving is now being conducted by an increasingly large diversity of people with a huge range of backgrounds. At Reef Check we’ve taught scientific diving to groups from commercial cucumber fishermen in Baja California to tribal members in Washington state. These efforts bring welcome new perspectives to our community and contribute to the value of the work we do. AAUS has so much to gain by bringing these efforts under their umbrella while communities have a lot to gain from the collective knowledge and experience of AAUS. Over the next decade AAUS should work to embrace and include all scientific diving to involve a broader population of people conducting research and extend our expertise, best practices and unparalleled safety record to these communities.

At Reef Check I spearheaded our successful application into AAUS by working closely with AAUS board members to formalize our citizen science diver standards. These standards ensure that all divers, including divers from the community, follow safe diving practices. The standards we developed offer a promising model that can be used to expand our reach to a larger and more diverse dive community.


2. Describe your scientific diving experience and indicate its relevance to AAUS governance.

As someone who has been a part of university, governmental, non-profit, and for-profit commercial AAUS OM’s I feel like I understand the unique perspectives of each of these groups and can represent and speak to their interests. I was originally trained as a scientific diver by Jim Hayward in 2001 while attending UC Berkeley. Then after graduating I was hired by Tenera Environmental which has had an active scientific diving program since the early ‘70s. I learned a lot from the experienced divers there and dived on a wide range of projects from impact studies of proposed desalination facilities to assessing the impact of intake screens from water diversions.  I spearheaded their successful application to AAUS and oversaw a wide range of dive operations as their DSO including the subtidal monitoring around Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant, which is one of the longest running sampling efforts along the west coast. However, my true passion was the west coast’s kelp forests.

While I was the DSO at Tenera I would volunteer for Reef Check to monitor kelp forest health, and quickly became a contract instructor to teach these methods to citizen scientists. In 2014 this passion became my full-time job and since then I have put hundreds of divers through the Reef Check training program and have led survey trips all along the west coast, oftentimes operating in remote locations.  I continue to teach a large number of divers each year in our kelp forest monitoring protocols. I developed our highly-rated teaching materials which are utilized by scores of divers every year including by many of our partner OM’s. Once trained, we take these divers out on the water to conduct over a hundred surveys each year.

In 2020 I took on the role of Director of the Kelp Forest Monitoring Program where I grew our program to become the largest subtidal monitoring program on the west coast, doubling the number of surveys in California and extending the program from Baja California to Oregon and Washington state.


3. What relationships/networks/professional contacts/nonprofit board experiences do you have that will benefit AAUS by electing you to the AAUS BOD?

At Reef Check collaboration with partners is a key part of our success. Even before we joined AAUS we partnered with a wide range of dive programs to teach our protocols to their divers and have them collect Reef Check data. We have partnered with wide variety of other intuitions and groups including aquariums (MBA, CSC, AoP, CAS, PDZA), universities (UCSB, MLML, UCSC, CSUMB), non-profits (ORKA, PSRF, TNC, COBI), governmental agencies (CDFW, WADNR), and tribes (Samish Indian Nation). This has given me tremendous insight into how these different programs operate and what their needs and interests are.

In addition to the two Diving Control Boards I have served on as DSO (Tenera and Reef Check) I am currently a member of the UC Santa Cruz DCB. For five years I served on the board of The Watershed Project, a non-profit that works to educate underserved communities about their local watershed and engages those communities in conservation efforts. Currently, I am on two National \Ski Patrol boards (Northstar and Tahoe Backcountry) where I am involved in overseeing the operations and training of emergency care and rescue and evacuation skills and techniques.

In all these efforts I have a reputation for working well with other board members and above all else, getting stuff done!



Dave Benet
Diving Safety Officer

University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)


Dave is currently celebrating his 20th year of scientific diving at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Like many of the scientific diving students he now teaches, his path to the AAUS started through the undergraduate marine biology program at UCSC. He received a B.S. in 2004, after diving under the mentorship of Cecilia Shin, Steve Clabuesch and Dr. Mark Carr (2022 AAUS Lifetime Achievement Award recipient). The bulk of his research experience came as a technician specializing in kelp forest ecosystem monitoring efforts of California MPAs. In 2009, he began serving as Assistant Diving & Boating Safety Officer for UCSC, became a NAUI Instructor, and received his USCG 100-ton Master license. He began serving on the University’s Diving Control Board and Boating Safety Committee where he has helped shape safety policy and procedures for the past 14 years. In 2018 he became a NAUI Freediving Instructor and began providing formalized breath-hold dive training for UCSC students. In 2022 he accepted the role of campus Diving Safety Officer and helped transition the program from the academic division to the Environmental Health & Safety Dept. He is now responsible for the safety oversight of all campus diving activities and teaches scientific diving courses and relevant safety and technical trainings. Engaging with students in today’s environment helps him to keep a fresh perspective on how AAUS can continue serving its membership into the future.

1.     In what direction should the AAUS be heading in the next decade?


The present is a very exciting time for the AAUS and our scientific diving community. With so many new developments and initiatives coming to fruition, this is truly a galvanizing time for the Academy and its membership. The next decade should be characterized by two phases. The first phase is defined by the goals outlined in the remaining 4 years of the current strategic plan and a commitment to AAUS’s core values. Through pro-active and diligent leadership, the Academy has, or is in the process of delivering on many of the plan’s objectives. High quality programs such as our E-Learning platform, comprehensive credentialing mechanisms like ASDI, Accreditation for Organizational Members, dive logging and reporting systems that provide informed metrics, and a suite of new symposium workshops and trainings are just a few items on the growing list. These successes should not overshadow the important developments in our relationship with our federal regulators and on the world stage, or the hard work being done in the background to maintain the human and financial resources necessary for the security and efficacy of our organization. The next 4 years should remain focused on the continued execution of these goals while expanding capacity for outreach and engagement to better support membership in the participation and benefit of these services.

Phase two should prioritize the evaluation and refinement of the existing and newly installed programs as well as development and execution of the next phase in strategic planning. In recent years, the Academy has improved its messaging and communication campaign. This is evident through increased member outreach surveys, hosted Town hall meetings, and the continued quality of E-Slate publications. Expanded opportunities for engagement both at the OM and membership level should provide the necessary feedback to shape our path ahead. Personally, I would like to see better participation at the incoming scientific diver level. This can be achieved primarily by guiding membership towards existing services as well as development of effective new programs. Regional and local events can help develop relationships at the community level and raise awareness. There should also be expanded efforts in reducing the barrier to entry into scientific diving. At my own institution we have seen significant growth in student participation through the increasing accessibility of snorkeling and breath-hold diving. AAUS should continue to develop guidance for these types of activities to increase membership scope and broaden diversity.

2.     Describe your scientific diving experience and indicate its relevance to AAUS governance.


            In addition to the personal diving history in the bio above, I will share the 2 most notable experiences I’ve had that are valuable in terms of AAUS leadership. The first was my participation in a Serious Accident Investigation. In August of 2019, we experienced the worst case scenario; a diving fatality in an extremely remote location. The project was a collaboration between UCSC and USGS and occurred in Glacier Bay National Park, thus the resulting investigation was conducted under the established DOI procedure for such an incident. The lessons learned from the investigation process, and resulting administrative reviews and policy changes form the foundation of the SDAI workshop that is available at the AAUS symposium today.

            The second experience was a front row seat to the AAUS Accreditation and resulting programmatic changes at UCSC. In 2021, the University of California embarked on the process with a system wide approach. Leadership at each campus were asked to address the recommendations returned by the audit. Among the various points raised were concerns about the staffing and financial resources available to support these programs. In short, the Accreditation process was able to succeed where years of independent reviews and internal requests had failed. The result was a significant increase in staffing and program funding at all 6 of the participating UC campuses. I can be a strong advocate for the Accreditation program and perhaps advise participating OMs on how best to utilize this resource.

3.     What relationships/networks/professional contacts/nonprofit board experiences do you have that will benefit AAUS by electing you to the AAUS BOD?


My experience within the marine science community has afforded me the opportunity to develop a diverse network of quality professional and academic relationships through associations such as the University of California systemwide Dive Safety Workgroup (DSW), the Scientific Boating Safety Association (SBSA), the Diving Officers of California (DOCAL) and within the Aquarium diving community. Outside of the AAUS, I continue to build on professional relationships within NAUI, the freediving community, local dive shops and equipment manufacturers. Over time, I have gotten to know many of you through my 14-year membership with AAUS. Recently, I have been able to work closely with more of the AAUS community through my participation in the AAUS Snorkel & Breath-hold diving ad-hoc committee and by helping develop the SDAI workshop alongside my colleagues from NPS, USGS, and the UC Dive Consortium.

            Seeing the AAUS community reunited in Galveston last year with significant progress made on so many fronts was truly energizing. I felt more immersed in the Academy’s business with a true stake in the outcome. As a relatively new DSO with a long-standing relationship with AAUS, I see an opportunity to offer my knowledge and experience to assist in what has clearly been a monumental amount of work by the AAUS Board of Directors and everyone else that helps out. I would be honored to serve in the role of Director-At-Large and thank you for your consideration.




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