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Complementary paths

One foot on land and the other at sea

Oceanographer reconciles academic life with his scientific diving company

Jasão: in Cananeia, installing a sea current meter

Personal collectionJasão: in Cananeia, installing a sea current meterPersonal collection

“I’m out of here,” said Rodolfo Jasão Soares Dias when he left his job as programmer at a São Paulo bank. Following the path of his father, who had also left a bank job to study dentistry, Jasão, as he likes to be called, saw that he could do what he really wanted to do: scuba dive (he had been scuba diving with his father since he was a child along the São Paulo coast.)

He had worked as a professional scuba diver on offshore oil platforms for two years, but when he once again saw the work becoming unbearably routine, he quit and got a job as a recreational scuba diving instructor in Fernando de Noronha and in Arraial do Cabo, along the coast of Rio de Janeiro State. “I’m out of here,” he said again when he decided to concentrate on preparing for the entrance exam in oceanography at the University of São Paulo.

In 2007, at age 27, he started the course. “My dream was to combine research with diving,” he said, after having taken part in undersea collections with biologists in Rio das Ostras and Macaé, along the Rio de Janeiro coast.  Jasão was surprised to see that scuba diving was not very widely practiced at the Oceanographic Institute, but he slowly began to help his professors and colleagues in collecting marine sediments and organisms.

In order to learn as much as possible, Jasão took part in every trip he could throughout the course.  The knowledge proved useful soon after he opened a company that offers scientific scuba diving and undersea services called Subgeo, because it allowed him to better plan his time and predict the type of work problems he might encounter.  Jasão and fellow oceanographer Hélio Teruo, the company’s only two employees, work at least six hours a day to fill the orders for sediment collections, undersea photography and filming, installation or removal of equipment and mapping that come to them from companies, research institutions and universities.

The rest of the days and nights, Jasão and Teruo devote to academic tasks – both are working on their master’s degrees in oceanography at USP.  The two travel a lot.  “One day we’ll be in Antarctica, a beautiful place,” says Jasão, “and the next we’ll be in e  Cubatão, in the port of Santos, which is polluted and foul-smelling.”

To make the most of the collections, he has designed a simpler and lighter piece of equipment than those currently in use. It has a long stiff plastic tube, clamps and a weight, allowing him to collect sediment samples in the so-called black waters that offer virtually no visibility, like at the port of Santos.  “Those conditions require a lot of self-control because the lack of visibility really bothers most people, not to mention the branches and roots that await them at the bottom of the sea.”