Deep Thinker

Claire Paris-Limouzy finds the sweet spot between scientific research and competitive free diving.
Deep Thinker

As an associate professor in ocean sciences at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Claire Paris-Limouzy, M.S. ’87, spends many days observing the minuscule movements of fish larvae in an underwater, drifting laboratory.

But she hasn’t just developed specialized scientific instruments to listen to and observe these important but often unnoticed life forms on the reefs and in the open ocean. She has discovered a unique way to imperceptibly interact with her research subjects in their environment. She uses her competitive talents as a certified free diver to minimize the human intrusion.

“The bubbles from SCUBA disturb the pelagic environment,” said Paris, a native of southern France who spent a lot of time in the ocean as a child.

Claire Paris-Limouzy Free DiveParis, an alumna of the Rosenstiel School, is at the top of her game, both as a scientist and free diver. She has led numerous groundbreaking studies on larval dispersion and navigation, including one that showed that reef fish larvae can smell the presence of coral reefs from as far as several kilometers offshore, and can use this odor to find their way home. She also found that fish larvae migrate in groups and communicate by emitting sounds. 

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

A member of the United States Freediving Association, Paris-Limouzy was selected for the Team World Championships in 2014 and for the Individuals World Championships in 2015. She is ranked by AIDA International (Association Internationale pour le Développement de l’Apnée) and holds a Performance Freediving International certification.

Her goal is to promote scientific free diving nationwide through the American Academy of Underwater Sciences with the Rosenstiel School as a frontrunner.

Paris-Limouzy got hooked on the sport after her husband, Rosenstiel School alumnus Ricardo Paris, M.A. ’92, now also her coach, signed them up for free-diving lessons six years ago to celebrate her birthday. Turns out it was the gift of a lifetime.

“Free diving makes you feel one with the environment and promotes a sense of peace and fulfillment,” said Paris-Limouzy, who notes that finding her potential and having no fear of diving deeper have made her a better scientist.