Maria Madrigal: The Silliness of Science: April 10, 2012


NOAA Teacher at Sea

Maria Madrigal

NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

April 2-18, 2012

Mission: Comparison of Fishery Independent Sampling Methods

Geographical area of cruise: Tutuila, American Samoa

Science & Technology Log: April 10, 2012

Whoever said science isn’t fun, didn’t spend a day with the BRUVS team made up of James Barlow, Jacob Asher and Marie Ferguson. Ben Saunders, Louise Giuseffi and Mills Dunlap make up the other equally charismatic BRUVS team. Every day the two teams depart from the NOAA research vessel, Oscar Elton Sette, onto the small boats to their predetermined locations to deploy the stereo-BRUVS (Baited Remote Underwater Video Stations). They deal with heat, humidity, rain, waves, currents and anything else you can imagine, even large floating debris. One would think that by the fifth or sixth consecutive day that they may be a little crabby, but on the contrary, their spirits are kept high with a little silliness that keeps their job from becoming grueling and monotonous.

BRUVS Data Sheet

Data Sheet of Science

I quickly learned the carefree attitude of the team as the term “no splashy” was used between James and Jacob to communicate with each other as Jacob carefully prepared the cameras “of science” and James positioned the boat at the site. This light-hearted repartee continued throughout the day.  Any tool used from the clipboard to the pencil was followed by the singsong term “of science.” On my first day out on the water, I became familiar with completing the data sheet “of science.” The data sheet “of science” keeps track of many important details including the site number, site location with GPS coordinates, depth, memory card identification number, time of deployment and time of retrieval just to name a few.  I also assisted with the stick “of science,” which is the baited arm that is attached to the BRUVS frame before being deployed and removed after retrieval. Amidst all the banter, safety and accuracy were always a priority.

Preparing the BRUVS camera

Preparing the BRUVS camera

On my second day out with the team, Marie thoroughly reviewed all the procedures with me from data tracking to preparing the cameras and the tricks of the trade for safely lowering and recovering the BRUVS. Reviewing video footage with them was exciting, as you never know what the cameras may capture. It was also entertaining as they add commentary; some may say they are just delirious from being in the sun all day. Delirium? Silliness? Call it what you want, it is still informative. Working with these intriguing individuals reminds me that science is alive and exciting. They not only shared their experience and knowledge but also involved me in the process.

Being out on the water, regardless of the weather conditions, was a treat for me. The day was filled with beautiful coral reefs visible through crystal clear blue waters, flying fish soaring above the water, turtles swimming and diving; it evoked the excitement of the child within me. The best thing is realizing you were learning and you were having fun. Learning that is guided by curiosity and the joy of discovery; this is the type of learning environment that I want to facilitate for the students that visit the SEA Lab and for my corpsmembers who are just embarking on their careers.

Meet the BRUVS team members!

BRUVS Team on SE-4

BRUVS Team: Ben Saunders, Mills Dunlap and Louise Guiseffe

BENJAMIN SAUNDERS

Title: Research Associate

Organization: University of Western Australia

Education: Bachelor of Science in Marine & Freshwater Biology from University of Wales at Aberystwyth, PhD in Marine Ecology from University of Western Australia.

Duties: Manages a team of technicians that sample and analyze video footage.

When you were little what did you want to grow up to be? Fireman/Paleontologist/Marine Biologist

If you only knew then what you know now, what advice would you give yourself? Believe in yourself and others will believe in you, too.

Favorite thing about his job: Going to interesting and exotic places.

LOUISE GIUSEFFI

Title: Biological Technician

Organization: Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology from University of Hawaii at Manoa, Graduate Certificate in Ocean Policy from University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Duties: Create maps using fish data summaries and help with preparation for research cruises.

When you were little what did you want to grow up to be? Paleontologist

If you only knew then what you know now, what advice would you give yourself? Dream big. If you want something and you work at it, it will come your way.

Favorite thing about her job: Being out on the field and in the water.

MILLS DUNLAP

Title: Skilled Fisherman

Organization: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Education: Associate in Applied Science in Marine Technology from Cape Fear Community College.

Duties: Assist with operations. Help scientists collect the data they need. Tasks vary from fishing to operating small boats.

When you were little what did you want to grow up to be? It changed all the time. Didn’t have one specific career in mind. He does remember wanting to be a pilot and an explorer.

If you only knew then what you know now, what advice would you give yourself? See the world. Travel more at an earlier age.

Favorite thing about his job: Fishing and getting paid to see the world.

BRUVS Team on SE-6

BRUVS Team: James Barlow, Marie Ferguson and Jacob Asher

JAMES BARLOW

Title: Biological Science Technician

Organization: Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC)

Education: Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from University of California at Santa Cruz.

Duties: Teaches day-to-day boat and safety program for PIFSC.

When you were little what did you want to grow up to be? I didn’t have a specific career in mind but was always interested in water activities. It wasn’t until he volunteered at UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory that he became focused on Marine Biology.

If you only knew then what you know now, what advice would you give yourself? When working with people on a daily basis or out on the field, know that there are a lot of things that come up that are not about you.

Favorite thing about his job: Having a successful boating operation program and working with really good people.

 MARIE FERGUSON

Title: Marine Ecosystem Research Specialist

Organization: Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Science from University of California at Santa Barbara.

Duties: She is a CRED (Coral Reef Ecosystems Division) research diver whom conducts fish REA and towed-diver surveys as well as benthic-towed diver surveys. She additionally assists the Benthic Habitat Mapping and Characterization team.

When you were little, what did you want to go grow up to be? Marine Biologist.

Favorite thing about her job: Diving and seeing all the different marine habitats.

If you only knew then what you know now, what advice would you give yourself?  Set yourself up for success. Take advantage of any opportunity that may arise and try different things. If you are trying to figure out a career and field of profession, participate in internship programs even if you don’t know exactly what it is that you want to do (they’ll help you get some preliminary experience). And take the time to travel and see the world…it will open your eyes and broaden your perspective.

JACOB ASHER

Title: Marine Ecosystem Research Supervisor

Organization: Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research

Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology from University of Michigan, Master of Science in Coastal Environmental Management from Duke University and will be pursuing PhD with the University of Western Australia.

Duties: He analyzes data, write grants and serves as a science liaison for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Marine Debris Program. He is also a diver and part of the Benthic Habitat Mapping and Characterization team.

When you were little, what did you want to go grow up to be? Marine Biologist.

If you only knew then what you know now, what advice would you give yourself?  Have fun but stay focused. Life is short. Figure out what you want to do and go after it. Success doesn’t come by luck; it comes if you really work for it. If you are going to do it, don’t do it half-way do it all the way.

Favorite thing about his job: It marries everything he loved when he was a kid; surfing, swimming, diving, etc.

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