FIU@Home: Discover Aquanaut Chris Lopes

Written by Catherine Guinovart
October 5, 2020

Ever wondered what it’s like to live and work under water? Chris Lopes, a biology graduate student in the CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment, looks back at the time he participated in the first saturation mission conducted aboard Aquarius, the world’s only undersea laboratory. Lopes, then a sophomore, was the only undergraduate student part of the six-day Ecology of Fear Mission focused on predation and herbivory in coral reefs. Research conducted aboard Aquarius during this mission could not have happened without the significant increase in bottom time provided by the use of saturation diving.

Today, Lopes’ work in Professor James Fourqurean’s lab in the Institute of the Environment provides valuable insight on how seagrass ecosystems store carbon and aid in efforts to fight the effects of climate change.

Keep reading below to learn more about his experience at Aquarius, things that inspired him along the way and how you can help protect the oceans.

  • Aquanaut Chris Lopes aboard Aquarius
  • While at Aquarius Lopes conducted a night dive.

What is your favorite memory from your experience at Aquarius?

We conducted a night dive for our survey of nocturnal marine life. When we looked back at the habitat after reaching our starting point at a depth of 100 feet, we could only see a faint glow from the lights outside of Aquarius. Thanks to the darkness, we noticed hundreds of bioluminescent dots speckled across the nooks and crannies of the reef. I will never forget when a pod of squid came swishing through the bioluminescent waters in front of us. It was amazing.

What was your favorite thing to do at home as a kid?

I enjoyed “inventando,” as my dad would say. I was a handful as a kid, aspiring to be Leonardo DaVinci with a passion to understand how the world around me worked. I would take things apart, mix any solutions I thought would react or paint a mural. Admittedly, it led to a lot of reading time. I loved it, though, reading through my books or Popular Science Magazine often while listening to electronic dance music.

Are there any books you would recommend to kids stuck at home?

My absolute favorite books are the “Magic Tree House” books. These books lead young readers through fascinating adventures that are hard to forget. An older audience might enjoy classic books about personal development like, “How to Make Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie or “The Art of Dying” by Osho.

How can people protect the oceans?

It is much easier to change your actions than it is to change the world around you. Our natural systems are interconnected. Seagrass meadows can act as a filter for our pollution. By reducing our individual pollution we give these systems a better chance to adapt to the ongoing changes.

In part because of Aquarius and the work of the university’s Institute of Environment, FIU was ranked No. 9 in the world and No. 3 in the U.S. by the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings on Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water.

Aquarius Reef Base has supported more than 120 missions since 1993. Dive in to see what past research teams learned and experienced along with new ways to get involved. Learn more about Aquarius and take a virtual self-guided tour of the world's only undersea laboratory.