Tag Archives: DIY

DIY Black Smoker

Black smokers are one type of hydrothermal vent in the ocean. They are chimney like structures on the floor of the ocean that shoot out clouds of scorching water (up to 700° Fahrenheit).

This phenomenon is cause by cracks in the Earth’s crust, which heat up ocean water below the ground. The hot water is then expelled through openings such as black smokers into the surrounding ocean. As the water cools, mineral within it solidify. Over time, these minerals build up to form the chimney-like structures of the black smoker (sometimes reaching over 100 feet in height). The black color of the chimney comes from the nature of the minerals, which are largely composed of iron sulfides.

Black smokers can host amazing biotic communities including organisms such as archaea, barnacles, and tubeworms. Scientists believe that hydrothermal vents may allow for similar ecosystems on Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa.


*Make sure to ask a parent’s permission and use a space you can get messy!


1 Bottle

1 tbsp. dish soap

1 tbsp. baking powder



Toilet paper

Rubber bands


Cover the bottle in clay. If you want your black smoker to look realistic, use black clay to simulate the iron sulfide deposits of the black smoker chimney!


Mix the dish soap and vinegar.


Pour the mix into your bottle.


Package the baking soda in toilet paper and wrap it together with rubber bands.


Put in the backing soda and wait!

This tutorial was modified from wikihow. For this and other methods of building black smokers visit:


Hydrothermal vents on Saturn and Jupiter’s moons:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/science/saturn-cassini-moon-enceladus.html
  2. https://www.nasa.gov/press/2015/march/spacecraft-data-suggest-saturn-moons-ocean-may-harbor-hydrothermal-activity/index.html




Written By: Talia Niederman


Saving Water 101

The drought in California isn’t new, but it definitely is not getting any better. Here, on Catalina Island, we feel the effects of the dry weather in Southern California with full force. The lack of rain is magnified on the island, as our reservoir gets smaller and smaller, and substantial rain is not in the forecast. At CIMI, we have been doing our fair share to cut down on the amount of fresh water we use, from installing low-flow faucets, toilets and shower heads, to reducing the amount of water used in our kitchen. Even on the dive deck, we are filling our foot rinse bins with saltwater and promote the CIMI challenge to opt out from showering while you’re at camp! Here’s a few ways you can help reduce your freshwater usage, on the island or off—

  1. Turn off the water when you’re not actually using it! This may sound silly but people forget that while brushing their teeth, washing their hands, or taking a shower, you don’t always need the water on. Turn the water off while you’re shampooing or while your toothbrush is scrubbing away.
  1. Install low-flow faucets and shower heads. Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 9.45.59 PMPeople don’t realize how much water they use when showering. In one minute alone, a shower can use 5-10 gallons of water! Installing low-flow shower heads will reduce that number to 2.5 gallons or less per minute. In your sinks, low-flow faucets are a great replacement as well. This will help to preserve our fresh water and save money on your water bill.
  1. Reduce your energy consumption! Reducing the amount of energy you use also reduces water usage. Energy production accounts for the second highest use of freshwater, after agriculture. Anything from turning off the lights to driving less will help with our water crisis.
  1. Wash full loads of clothes and dishes. Make sure that when you run the dishwasher or washing machine, it is full. Doing laundry is a huge contributor to water use in homes. Save energy and save water! Small and large loads of laundry use about the same amount of energy. Additionally, 90% of the energy that washers use is for heating water, so wash your laundry on cold.
  1. Recycle your water! Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 9.46.09 PMWhile larger scale changes can be made, like using grey water to flush your toilets, any recycling of water is helpful. After you make pasta or boil veggies, use the remaining water for your plants. Outside, create a simple rainwater catchment system or divert your gutters to water your yard. Remember, drought resistant plants are a great substitute for traditional lawns!

Written By: Jaclyn Lucas

DIY Aquariums

Starting your own aquarium at home is a simple and fun Do-It-Yourself you can do as a family, however it does require some maintenance and patience to start. There are many items needed for a full DIY aquarium to be up and running. Some of the main materials include:

• Water
• Tank
• Sand
• Rocks
• Algae
• Aeration Stone
• Fish food
• Fish!

When setting up your own aquarium you must think about how many fish you want and this will help determine the size of tank needed for the fish you want. The rule of thumb for fish capacity is about one inch of fish per gallon or 24 inches of surface area. If you are holding saltwater fish or predators they need about twice as much water room as freshwater fish.

Once the right size tank is chosen sand and rocks are needed to establish a home for your aquarium. Gather these material from your home or at your local pet store. For certain saltwater fish, algae or kelp should be added to emulate their natural habitat. One major item needed is an aeration stone, fish need oxygen to breathe so purchasing one is extremely useful and needed. Some small fish bowls don’t have room for one so changing the water every few days is required. An aeration stone provides bubbles in the water, which in turn provides more dissolved oxygen for the fish to use and breathe.

When water is added for a freshwater fish make sure you purchase a de-chlorinator because tap water has small amounts of chlorine to disinfect, but if used for an aquarium, it can kill your fish. Make sure the temperature of the water being placed is similar to the habitat of the fish being placed in your tank.

The final step is bringing your fish home to your new aquarium. Since you will be bringing your fish in a plastic bag from the store, place entire bag in tank for 15 minutes so the water in the bag can acclimate to the temperature of the tank. Once ready pour water over bucket with a net then place fish in aquarium tank immediately. Don’t pour water from the store into your tank because it could contain contaminants that you don’t want in your tank.

You have now completed your own aquarium at home, do not forget to feed your fish and enjoy your new companion!

DIY Gyotaku

The art of fish printing, also known as gyotaku, originated in Japan in the mid-1800s. This practice was widely used among fishermen to accurately depict the size of their catch. Prior to fish printing, the size of a caught fish grew with the spread of the story. What started as a two-foot fish quickly grew to five within a few exchanges.

In traditional gyotaku, ink is painted onto both sides of a fish. The fish is then wrapped in thin paper, leaving behind an ink replica of each side of the fish. Most fishermen originally used black ink, but some tried to recreate the colors of the fish with their print. Artists around the world still use this practice to depict aquatic life.

While we don’t recommend finding a dead fish to practice gyotaku, it is possible to put these practices to use in your own project. Children can pick out soft plastic molds of sea life at a craft store, or you can even use wild flowers from your backyard. Here is what you’ll need:

-Plastic mold or wild flowers

-Washable paint

-Bowls for paint


-Canvas, paper, tee shirts, or anything you would like to paint!

-Rinse bowl

Gyotaku 1

Find a flat surface on which to do your project. Choose your desired print shape (we chose the ephemeral wild flowers that are currently blooming on Catalina Island!) and a paint color. Coat the entire surface of your flower thoroughly. Press the flower onto the paper, making sure to press each petal individually to transfer color. Lift the flower, being mindful not to smudge the wet paint, and you’re done! We also printed a plastic mold of sea stars and a Garibaldi using the same methods.

Gyotaku is a great DIY craft project for kids. Use it as an opportunity to teach them about the sea life or flowers they are pressing. Or, grab some canvas and nice paint and create a beautiful, natural home decoration!

Gyotaku 9

DIY Algae Press in 9 Simple Steps

DIY Algae presses are a fun way for students to take a little piece of CIMI home with them. After learning about the three different types of algae (Chlorophyta, Phaeophyta, and Rhodophyta), each student has an opportunity to design their very own algae art piece. Now if you’re trying to do this at home, you may not have easy access to tons of algae, like us, so feel free to go find some plants or flowers in your neighborhood to use.

Things you’ll need:

  • Something to press, like flowers or leaves (stay away from anything with a large stem, as it won’t press very flat)
  • A piece of cardstock or thick paper cut to about 6 by 9 inches
  • Some wax paper or parchment paper
  • Cardboard cut into small 6 by 9 inch sections or so
  • Rubber bands
  • A few heavy books
  • Two weeks of patience
  1. To start, gather all your plants and decide upon a design that you want to create.
  2. Take your piece of cardstock and carefully place your plants down in the shape you picked out. Try not to overlap pieces of plants, instead try to keep just one plant layer all over your paper.
  3. Do not use glue to stick the plants down; they will change shape and size as they dry.
  4. Once you have positioned your plants as you like, place a sheet of wax paper on top of your creation. This will keep the plants from sticking to the cardboard as they dry.
  5. When you are ready, place the cardstock and wax paper in between two piece of cardboard. Basically making a sandwich.
  6. Then use 4-5 rubber bands in both directions to hold your project together.
  7. Find a few heavy books and place your project in a cool dry place for about 2 weeks.
  8. If you check your press after two weeks and its not completely dry, leave it there for another week.
  9. Once everything is dry you can remove your press from the cardboard and wax paper. If the plants aren’t staying in place, feel free to glue them or get your press laminated, this will protect it from general wear and tear.


We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. Catalina Island Marine Institute is a hands-on marine science program with an emphasis on ocean exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and ocean happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree usually in marine science or related subjects. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science and ocean information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.cimi.org for additional information. Happy Reading!