NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013
Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical area of cruise: The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Time – 8:15 am
Latitude and Longitude -41º32N, 71º19W
Temperature – 18º C, 65ºF
Barometer – 1019.5 mb
Science and Technology Log:
Since we have been delayed in sailing, I have had the opportunity to interview several of the crew sailing with the Gordon Gunter to learn more about working at sea and in the marine sciences. Sailing one of the NOAA vessels for scientific research requires personnel from many different disciplines including the: scientists, NOAA Corps officers, engineers, ship stewards, fishermen, deck hands, computer and electronics personnel, bird and mammal observers, and others. I will continue to interview personnel and add them to my future blogs.
1. Name: Cristina Bascuñán
What is your Position? Lab Technician
What do you do? I’m in charge of the Rosette CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) equipment and Sea-Bird equipment. I schedule them for the different surveys and send them out for maintenance.
Why did you decide to work with NOAA and ocean science? As a sophomore in college I started volunteering and loved it, so I volunteered for several more surveys and then went out to sea on a NOAA cruise and loved that. I was doing 2 trips a summer. Around that time I got hold of an oceanography branch chief of NOAA who was in need of a lab technician and the rest is history.
How long have you worked for NOAA? I have worked for NOAA for 16 years. I volunteered for 3 years initially and was 19 on my first trip.
What do you enjoy most? Meeting all the different people on the various cruises
What would you like to change? During long trips I miss the comforts of home.
If not working for NOAA, what would you do? I would be an architect.
What outside hobbies do you have? When out at sea, I like to knit. At home, I’m involved in many water activities like: kayaking, fishing and going out on our skiff (small sailboat).
Where are you from? I have lived on the Cape for 16 years.
What is your favorite marine animal? The Lumpfish – they look like they are made out of rubber.
What is the most unusual thing you have seen or found at sea? While out doing a MOCNESS (Multiple Opening/Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System and is a net system for plankton in the ocean), we brought up a bunch of bones and some carrots. Our group could not figure out where this could have come from or what animal the bones were from. We found out later, that the Steward (meal preparation person) had tossed the slop basket from dinner into the sea and that’s what we brought up!
If a student is interested in pursuing a career in marine science, what would you suggest to them? Get experience and go out to sea on a research vessel to see if it is something you would like to do for a career.
2. Name: Marc Weekely
What is your Position? Operations Officer onboard the Gordon Gunter
What do you do? I am the liaison between the operational side of the ship and the science party, making sure that what the scientists want to accomplish gets done.
Why did you decide to go into the NOAA Corps and ocean science? I have a B.S. in environmental science. In 2004, 2005 I found out about the NOAA Corps and it was a good way to mix the operational side with the science I already had. All NOAA Corps officers have to do watches and get the ship to where the scientists need to go, which includes ship driving and navigation, which I also liked.
How long have you worked for NOAA? I was commissioned in 2006.
What do you enjoy most? The variety of operations, science, and projects that are available and learning about the different scientific research. The routine is always new and fresh and you can transfer to new ones frequently. For example, in the NOAA Corps you spend 2 years in the field on a ship and 2-3 years on a land assignment. I was in Antarctic in 2009 doing atmospheric research on air quality monitoring.
What would you like to change? Some of the assignments are only once in a lifetime and cannot return to them like going back to the South Pole.
What part of your job was the most unexpected? When I first entered everything took me by surprise because I was not aware of the scope of the Corps. The opportunities to pursue what I was training for came much sooner than I realized. I was on the bridge controlling and driving a ship much sooner than I expected.
How are people chosen for NOAA ships? For many of the officers you fill out a “wish list” of where you want to go and then assigned according to needs and timing.
If not working in the Corps, what would you do? A job on or in the water.
If a student is interested in pursuing a career with NOAA or in marine science, what would you suggest to them? The Corps is looking for individuals with science, engineering and math backgrounds.
What outside hobbies do you have? Scuba diving and anything outdoors. I tried rock climbing in Boulder before going to the South Pole.
Where are you from? Currently I live in Moss-point, Mississippi, but I’m originally from Texas where my parents still live.
What is your favorite marine animal? Sharks because so little has changed in them over time. Even though they are a very frightening animal, I love to be in the water with them.
What is the most unusual thing you have seen or found at sea? Watching a 20 foot humpback whale full breech (entire body) out of the water is one of the most unusual and amazing things I have seen.
3. Chief Steward: Margaret Coyle
What are some of the skills and experiences a person needs to become a ship’s steward? A person needs good cooking skills, organization, to be personable, and dedicated. This is a career, I’m working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. “I live to cook and cook to live”.
What do you like most about your job? The cooking and sailing.
What would you like to change? I hate the paperwork – “If I only had to just cook and order groceries, I would be the happiest person on the planet.”
How long have you been working for NOAA? I have been sailing since I was 20 and cooking for 25 years. I started in the coastguard as an engineer and then went back to school to be a cook. I have been with NOAA for 8 years, 2 months and 7 days.
What do you like most about working on the ocean? The solitude and the lifestyle of just being at sea and having my own space and my galley setup. Having a set schedule is something I like and also the rocking of the ship and the weather.
What part of your job did you least expect to do? When I came here I knew exactly what to expect. Over the years the record keeping requirements have increased, which I did not expect.
How far in advance plan your meals? I have 8 years of menus and keep them all in my computer. I plan my menus by the people we have onboard and how many are going to be at a certain meal. I have to plan and order 7 days in advance and I have to always order dairy and produce when we pull into a new port.
What training or experience would you suggest for high school students if they want to pursue a career as a Steward or other ocean careers? You can go the military route and go through their school for cooking. Take Home Economics in HS and work in a restaurant – that will determine if you like it or hate it.
What advice would you give young people to eat more nutritiously? Eat dinner at a table with your family and have a conversation. Don’t sit in front of the TV or play on a computer. Don’t eat out of a bag instead choose something healthy like an apple.
If you weren’t a ship’s steward, what other career would you like to have? This is my dream job! But if I didn’t cook, I would be a seamstress.
*What’s your favorite meal to prepare? Whatever someone wants to eat, is something I love to prepare.
*Do you ever run out of food? I once ran out of orange juice one year. We were in Mexico and I ordered 100 lbs. of oranges and squeezed 15 lbs each morning for fresh juice.
Do you have an outside hobby? I sew clothes – My husband and I go to Renaissance fairs and I make the costumes for that. I love old movies as well and gardening.
Where are you from? Hurley, Mississippi and I’m married and have 2 children.
What is your favorite marine animal? The edible kind, salmon!
Here is one of her favorite recipes:
Sweet Potato Cheesecake
2 cups Mashed sweet potato
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 lb cream cheese
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
Beat cream cheese and sugar together till light. Add eggs one at a time. Add sweet potatoes, spices and mix together. Butter a spring-form pan and dust with graham crackers. Pour mixture into pan. Bake at 325º till filling is set. Chill and serve with whipping cream.
I can’t wait to try this when we head out to sea!
One thing that I have learned in life is that many things are not under your control and you just have to make the best of each situation and be flexible. So even though it has taken several more days to leave port than had been planned, I have had the opportunity to explore the base, visit another NOAA vessel, the Okeanos Explorer, interview several of the staff, and work on my blogs and photography. I have really enjoyed talking with the others onboard and visiting the areas around the base and in Newport, RI.
Also by postponing the sailing day, it looks like we missed the bad weather from hurricane Andrea. Friday it was raining constantly in port, so it most likely would have done the same at sea!
Did you know? The NOAA Corps is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. Officers work on one of NOAA’s 19 ships or 12 aircraft in support of the atmospheric and oceanic scientific research that is being carried out on these vessels.
Question of the Day?
What job would you like to have on a NOAA vessel and why?