Cassie Kautzer: Alaska or Bust! August 11, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cassie Kautzer
(Almost) Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 16 – September 5, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Cold Bay, Alaska
Date: August 11, 2014

Personal Log

Hi! My name is Cassie Kautzer and I am writing to you from my couch in Northwest Arkansas. I am hiding inside with the air conditioning today because my thermometer shows it being 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and that is too hot for this former Wisconsin girl! I am finishing packing and doing some final research before I head to Alaska on August 16! (I am also very much looking forward to cooler temperatures!)

Science girl power!
Alaska or Bust! This science girl is ready!


I am a fifth grade teacher at Monitor Elementary in Springdale, Arkansas! I have loved MONITOR and all my little Mallards since 2008 when I had the honor of joining the Monitor Team. Monitor Elementary houses a very diverse population of around 800 students each year. This school year, I will have the pleasure of teaching science to 112 of those students, and I cannot wait to share this amazing experience with them! Since Arkansas is not a coastal state, neither my students nor I have a lot of experience with marine ecology or tidal influences. In the Paleozoic Era, however, the entire state was covered by relatively shallow ocean, the Ouachita Basin.

I applied for this wonderful learning opportunity for several reasons:

• I am like my students, I learn by DOING! I can’t take all of my students with me (though I would if I could), so I will learn and gather new information, first hand, and take back pictures, videos, stories, lessons, and activities to share with them!
• I want my students to see the bigger picture–how is our life in Arkansas affected by oceans, tides, floods, erosion?
• I want my students to see the scientific opportunities, jobs, and careers that are available to them! I want to help inspire future scientists!
• I want my girls to see women working in scientific fields!
• And… I love adventure, and exploring and learning about our beautiful world! I will not fear the unknown; I will learn and grow as I figure it out!

Whitaker Point, Hawksbill Crag Trail, Arkansas
On top of the world! I made my first visit to Whitaker Point in Arkansas this summer!

My mission this summer, from August 16 – September 5, will be a Hydrographic Survey aboard the NOAA Ship Rainier. NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s mission is to understand the Earth’s environment in order to conserve and care for marine (ocean) resources. The Rainier is “one of the most modern and productive survey platforms of its type in the world” and uses multibeam sonar systems to “cover large survey areas in a field season. The ship’s hydrographers acquire and process massive amounts of data and create high-resolution, three-dimensional terrain models of the ocean floor.”  Those models can then be used to identify obstructions and shoals along the bottom of the ocean that are dangerous for navigating ships.  ( Hydro ships, like the Rainier, map the ocean floor to help with safe navigation of the seas. Knowing the depth and make-up of the ocean floor surrounding Alaska will benefit all the vessels and ships, large and small, passing through the Gulf of Alaska. Activities onboard can include echosounding, tide gauge installation, shoreline surveying, verification, and mapping, and data processing.


NOAA ship Rainier, named for Mt. Rainier - a volcanic cone in Washington state that rises 14,410 feet above sea level.  Photo courtesy of NOAA.
NOAA ship Rainier, named for Mt. Rainier – a volcanic cone in Washington state that rises 14,410 feet above sea level. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

So what does all of that mean?? I am about to find out! NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program aims to provide me, the teacher, with real-world research experience through work with world-renowned scientists, to allow unique insights into oceanic and atmospheric research crucial to our world. To this end, I truly believe the best way to learn is by getting ones hands dirty and trying to figure things out. So, on August 16 I will head to Alaska and meet up the Rainier in Kodiak, AK. On August 18 we will depart from Kodiak and head toward Cold Bay to begin our hydrographic survey mission.

Right now, I have more questions than answers: What will it be like without land beneath my feet for three whole weeks? What hours will I work? How am I going to learn all the crew members’ names? Will I get sea sick? What is echosounding? Will I get to go out on a launch? What marine life am I going to see? Will I ever want to leave Alaska? I guess I am about to find out!

For My Students

Can you find out…..?

1. How can I track the distance and speed I am traveling at while on the Rainier? (What units would I use to measure and share this information with you?)

2. When I am on the Rainier, weather information will be shared in degrees Celsius. How can I convert that information to degrees Farenheit so all of my non-science friends can understand?

“Leave a Reply” at the very bottom of this page! I am looking forward to answering (or trying to answer) your questions and sharing this epic learning adventure with you!

And of course, as Will.I.Am wrote and sang, and I kareoked to my students all year, “Reach for the Stars” and you’re sure to end up in the “Hall of Fame!”

18 Replies to “Cassie Kautzer: Alaska or Bust! August 11, 2014”

  1. Thank you so much for those questions for us students. I really hope you have a lot of fun and please, bring me back a little something. I will be here in Arkansas if you need someone to talk to, or to watch the class, haha.

    Chloe C.

  2. We are all so proud of you! You will have a wonderful, learning adventure! Congratulations on being chosen.

    1. Kaedon, Dillon, Jacob, Kateon,

      I am doing very well today. It is cloudy and windy out on the water, but still lots of fun! I have not seen a shark. I did see a dead whale yesterday, part of the Life Cycle. I am hoping to see live whales soon!
      🙂 Miss K

  3. Hey, it’s chloe thanks to you I’m flying by in math problems and anything science I miss being your fifth grade student, I love middle school!
    Middle School or Bust!
    P.S. I finally conquered my locker on the second day of school!

    1. Chloe- I will miss you being in class with me too! However, I knew you would love middle school because you love to learn! I cant wait to hear about all your successes, especially in math and science! Remember to “Reach for the Stars” and you’re sure to end up in the “Hall of Fame”! ❤️Miss K

  4. Have you seen suff in the ocean more the a jellyfish, fish and otter’s. Is the boat hard to ride. I think that you are leaning a iot more suff.
    Esteafni Zambrano

  5. Have you learned anything about the animals you’ve seen like thry’re behavoir, or what helps them swim through the water?

  6. Hello Mrs. Kautzer I think the sand on Kodiak island is black because there is a volcano near or some where on the island.Also I know that the volcano erruption that happend on June 6,1912 whas the largest volcano erruption of the 20th century.

    -Alexa Chandler

    1. Hi Alexa!
      I am impressed that you are clearly doing a little extra research on your weekend! 🙂
      I am now wondering if you can tell me why a volcano being near would cause the rocks and sand to be black?
      🙂 Miss K
      PS – See you soon!
      PSS – Research “buoyancy” next!

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