meet Michael Lombardi

They call him ‘Dr. Deep’.

Leveraging a unique mix of undersea expertise, an inventive personality, an affinity for writing, and an attraction for the arts, Michael has found himself involved in numerous projects, microventures, and consultancy activities in the undersea community for more than 20 years and which span all of the humanities subjects. Michael’s ongoing work focuses on evolving [manned] diving technology and techniques and spans both academic and industry sectors – affording crossed platform approaches to underwater problem solving. His role is often literally ‘beneath the surface’ – undertaking a variety of program management and creative/technical development responsibilities.

His first 20 years of occupational diving were primarily as an inshore commercial ‘mud’ diver in Rhode Island, undertaking work from as simple (yet meticulous) as scrubbing boat bottoms to as complex as conducting detailed engineering inspections of various structures. Through this time, Michael spent well in excess of 4000 hours underwater attaining and maintaining proficiency in underwater rigging, welding, burning, demolition, hydraulic tool use, photo/video, salvage, timber work, and various construction techniques. In parallel, he frequently tinkered to design/build new tools to make his life underwater easier, more productive, and more cost-effective. Just a couple of notable commercial diving projects include the Woonsocket Falls Dam Rehabilitation Project which required numerous 7+ hour dives, and making an emergency repair inside a compost digestion tank for Stop & Shop while immersed in a 100+ degree microbial slurry.

Early in his career, he also pursued advancements in technical diving, and became an early advocate of closed-circuit rebreathers. He was first trained on the AP Diving Inspiration Classic in 2003 which was loaned to him by the Cousteau Society during their incubation of the ‘Cousteau Advanced Diving Laboratory’ at the University of Rhode Island. Thereafter in 2004, he trained on the CCR2000 and pursued continued development and commercialization of the unit, but fell short of adequate funding to see the project through successfully. Subsequently, Michael has trained on and/or dived numerous rebreather systems, eventually designing, building, and diving several proprietary systems. Michael has become well sought after to apply rebreathers and related technologies to unique underwater problems in both industry and academia.

While initially trained as a marine biologist, he has maintained critical linkages within the marine science community which help bridge complex diving capabilities to underwater research, particularly within the mesophotic realm. Among these include participating in the first use of mixed-gas at NOAA’s Caribbean Marine Research Center (2002), conducting among the first rebreather dives for science through the same facility (2004), working to >400fsw to document the natural history of Bahamian reefs (2010-2012), and participating in the first Exosuit ADS training program in 2013. Each of these endeavors resulted in his drafting best practices for the employed techniques which have been widely published and practiced.

2012 marked the groundbreaking of the ‘Lombardi Undersea Resource Center’ in Rhode Island, to provide a physical home for Michael’s entrepreneurial undersea exploits, with an emphasis on research and development of advanced manned diving systems. Work incubated at LURC has resulted in the commercial production of several small utility products, a novel systems integration platform, a production oxygen rebreather system, and an experimental portable inflatable habitat which has been patented in partnership with New York University.

As a safety officer and project manager, Michael has structured projects to comply with a variety of occupational compliance standards including ADCI, AAUS, EMC385-5-5, IMCA, and others. This careful regulatory navigation has resulted in holding several positions and appointments in institutional diving safety to guide through program restructuring. These include interim/Diving Safety Officer for NOAA’s Caribbean Marine Research Center (1999-2006),  interim Diving Safety Officer (2011-2012) for the University of Rhode Island, a contract position (2009-2014) as Diving Safety Officer for the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, and interim Diving Safety Officer for Boston University (2016-2017). He was also engaged by the J.F. White Contracting Company to help develop company best practices and a training regimen for Exosuit ADS #001, which provided the dive operational and planning model for the system’s first scientific deployment at Antikythera, Greece, in partnership with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Michael has stood out as a leader in the community since 1997 as a Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership (HOBY) award recipient, followed with being recognized as one of Rhode Island’s ’40 Under 40′ (2007) by the Providence Business News, and more recently being awarded the 2014 MTS Young Professionals Award. His program development efforts in deep human scientific exploration have resulted in multiple funding awards through the National Geographic Society‘s Waitt Grants Program. Currently, Michael holds an appointment as co-Chairperson of the Marine Technology Society’s Diving Committee, and guest edited the 2013 MTS Special Issue on Diving Technology & Techniques. He is a lifetime member of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS), the Marine Technology Society (MTS), and the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA).

Recognizing the importance of giving back, in 2003 Michael started Ocean Opportunity Inc., a 501(c)3 not for profit organization which provides the conduit for his creative programming and outreach. This philanthropic work has resulted in museum and gallery displays, published books, an numerous community and classroom engagements. Just one successful service project was the Diving a Dream initiative which was aired on NBC’s Today Show in 2007.

Presently with a consistent and award winning (2nd Place Science/Environment RI Press Association 2008) publication record, including a syndicated Blog, ‘a New Life in the Sea’, work featured on local and national media outlets, a forward looking and keen sense for enterprising business development, and routinely operating in the harshest extremes on this planet, Michael is making huge strides in encouraging a greater public understanding and appreciation of the next cultural, social, and evolutionary steps for our species – with a mission to take human exploration and its influences on science, technology, and society where it has not yet ventured – to oceana incognita.

Michael remains a confident, yet struggling artist, environmentalist, entrepreneur, and explorer in more ways than one, making his home in Rhode Island (the Ocean State).