US researcher to spend 100 days living underwater

Joe Dituri says that he wants to help get kids excited about doing STEM research
Meet Dr. Joseph Dituri, underwater research extraordinaire! (University of South Florida)

Would you like to live underwater?

No, we're not talking about getting gills and becoming Aquaman. We're talking about getting into a long, tank-like room and living, sleeping, and cooking down there, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The more you think about it, the more it starts to seem really interesting ... and maybe a bit intimidating. We have so many questions! How do you breathe? How deep down are we talking? Does everything stay dry? Wait ... you can cook underwater?

And how long can you actually do this for?

Joe's Deep Adventure

Welcome to the world of US researcher Joe Dituri. He is a former Navy diver and a biomedical engineer Ph.D. who works out of the University of South Florida. Usually, anyway.

But since March 1, he has been living about 10 metres (30 feet) below the ocean surface. And he plans to stay there until June 9, which will be 100 days. That's over 14 straight weeks!

His living quarters is a habitat called Jules' Undersea Lodge off the coast of Key Largo in the Florida Keys. Hey, it sounds kind of cozy when you put it that way!

Of course, Dituri is still under some pressure, and we do mean that literally. We'll let him explain in this short clip from his @drdeepsea Instagram account.

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A post shared by Joe Dituri (@drdeepsea)

So why do all this? Well, for science for starters. But also for you! Let's break it down.

Body under pressure

Remember that squished bottle that Dituri showed us in the Instagram clip above? As he said, that's the result of the increased pressure caused by the amount of water above and around his living space. Ten metres might not feel all that long. It's about the length of a school bus. Long, but not as long as a train.

But have you ever lifted a full bucket of water? It's surprisingly heavy.

Now imagine trying to lift a bucket of water that's as tall as a school bus is long! Suddenly, we're talking about an immense amount of weight. Which is what is sitting above Dituri everyday.

This pressure—known as hyperbaric pressure (greater than air pressure at sea level)—is a big reason why Dituri is here. He is conducting an experiment to attempt to understand the effects that that hyperbaric pressure has on the human body, especially over a longer period of time.

In a way, his experiment is similar to what astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are doing, except that there they are learning about how the human body responds to a lack of gravity.

It is all about testing the limits—and powers—of the human body (remember, he is a biomedical researcher!). For example, there is some data that shows that human cells respond very well to increased pressure, even doubling in size. So who knows how Dituri's body will change in this remarkable environment?

An inspiring class

After a career in the navy, Dituri went to school for biomedical engineering. He hopes that his research can unlock new treatments for injuries and diseases. (University of South Florida)

But in addition to this experiment, Dituri has another responsibility. As an instructor!

You see, class is currently in session at the University of South Florida, and he has students to teach. So he is teaching them virtually, live from his home under the sea. Cool!

And he also wants his message to reach far beyond that classroom to all kids around the world. Including you!

"I think what we're doing is kind of fun," he told the media about his mission. "We're going to do science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) outreach for kids. This is all about getting them to understand how to do research and that you can do research in cool environments!"

We agree! Would you like to see that environment? Well, fortunately, Dituri has given us a tour in the video below. You're probably not going to want to watch the entire 38-minute(!) video, which was filmed for reporters around the world. But if you skip 7:10, you'll get the full tour of Jules' Undersea Lodge. Perhaps it is the kind of place where you would like to do research one day?

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