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Faculty Profile: Dr. Claire Paris

By Diana Udel

Faculty Profile: Dr. Claire Paris

By Diana Udel

As an ocean scientist at the UM Rosenstiel School, Claire Paris spends days observing the movements of tiny fish larvae in a unique underwater drifting laboratory. She has developed scientific instruments to listen to, and observe these important, but often unnoticed, life forms on the reefs and in the open ocean. Another powerful component to her scientific approach is how she interacts with her research subjects underwater. Paris uses her talent as a certified freediver to minimize any human disturbance to her research subjects.

“The bubbles from SCUBA disturbs the pelagic environment,” said Paris, a native of South France who spent a lot of time in the ocean as a child. “Freediving makes you feel one with the environment and promotes a sense of peace and fulfillment.”

Paris, a Rosenstiel School alumna (M.S. ’87), is at the top of her game, both as a scientist and freediver. She has led numerous groundbreaking studies, including one that showed that reef fish larvae can smell the presence of coral reefs from as far as several kilometers offshore, and use this odor to find their way home. She also found that fish larvae communicate by emitting sounds.

She has developed unique scientific instruments and sophisticated computer models to predict how fish larvae, as well other planktonic organisms and pollutants are transported with the ocean currents. These tools were instrumental to help track the behavior of oil during the Deepwater Horizon blowout, and continue to be used to simulate the fate of oil, to predict oil spill impacts and to optimize the first response to future spills.

She is a member of the United States Freediving Association (USFA) and an AIDA* International-ranked freediver and was selected for Team USA for the Team World Championships in 2014 and for the Individuals World Championships in 2015. She holds a Performance Freediving International (PFI) certification. Claire’s goal is to promote AAUS (American Academy of Underwater Science) scientific freediving nation-wide with the UM Rosenstiel School as a frontrunner.

Finding her potential and having no fear to dive deeper makes her a better scientist, says Paris.

*AIDA: Association Internationale pour le Development de l’Apnee