Laura Guertin: Thomas Jefferson, Here I Come! August 22, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin

Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 22, 2014

That's me (Dr. G!) on a shark tagging trip off of the Florida Keys, October 2013 (photo used with permission)
That’s me (Dr. G!) on a shark tagging trip off of the Florida Keys, October 2013 (photo used with permission)

About Dr. G

Hello everyone!  My name is Laura Guertin (but my students all call me “Dr. G”), and I’m an Associate Professor of Earth Science at Penn State Brandywine in Media, PA.  I’m the only geologist on campus, and I teach introductory-level college courses in geoscience, Earth science, and geography for non-science majors.  In fact, while I’m at sea, my introduction to oceanography course (GEOSC 040 – The Sea Around Us) will be reading these logs and learning from me online.  How amazing is it to have the opportunity to teach about the ocean, from the ocean!  When I’m not teaching and working with students in class, I also mentor undergraduate student researchers and advise students pursuing majors in Penn State’s College of Earth & Mineral Science before they transfer to the Penn State University Park campus to complete their degrees.  The students I work with are incredible, and if you add in the amazing staff and fellow faculty members… well, let’s just say that I’m going to miss my campus for the three weeks I’m out to sea!  I’m also a blogger for the American Geophysical Union at GeoEd Trek, where I post weekly about geoscience education and educational technology – but I’m looking forward to shifting gears and blogging here while I’m a NOAA Teacher at Sea!

Why be a NOAA Teacher at Sea?

Let’s zip back in time to my undergraduate days, when I was a geology major at Bucknell University.  I had a strong interest in and passion for the oceans, but there were no oceanography courses at Bucknell.  So, I spent one summer doing an oceanography field camp at the Marine Science Consortium in Wallops Island, VA, one semester with the Boston University Marine Program in Woods Hole, MA, and two summers interning with the aeronautical and nautical field photogrammetry unit of NOAA in Norfolk, VA (note that “photogrammetry” means taking measurements from photographs).  I then decided to head to graduate school and earned my PhD in marine geology & geophysics at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science (UM-RSMAS).  While at UM-RSMAS, I had some incredible field opportunities on land and on ships from the Florida Keys to the Bahamas to Baja California.

My school mascot, the Nittany Lion, who joined me on my trip to Iceland where I connected with Jackie. Don't be surprised to see him in some of my photos on the Thomas Jefferson!
My school mascot, the Nittany Lion, who joined me on my trip to Iceland where I connected with Jackie. Don’t be surprised to see him in some of my photos on the Thomas Jefferson! (photo at Gullfoss, Iceland, taken by myself)

Now let’s zip forward to last year… I was really enjoying my time in the classroom, but I always knew I wanted to have another opportunity to do research at sea.  I had heard of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, but I thought it was only for K-12 teachers.  Then, while I was doing a field seminar in Iceland, I reconnected with my friend Jackie Hams, who just happens to be a geology faculty member at Los Angeles Valley College – and a 2011 NOAA Teacher at Sea alum!  After hearing about her experiences, and with her encouragement, I applied and was thrilled to be one of only 29 teachers accepted to join the 2014 class of NOAA Teachers at Sea!  And how amazing of a coincidence is this… I’ve been accepted to join a hydrographic survey (more on exactly what that is in my next post – but for now, it basically involves mapping/charting the seafloor) that departs from NOAA’s marine operations center for their Atlantic fleet in Norfolk, VA – right where I interned for two summers as an undergraduate student!  I feel like my NOAA experiences are now coming full circle, and I can’t wait to start this leg of my journey.

The NOAA Maine Operations Center - Atlantic, where I did my undergraduate internship for two summers, and where I'm heading to join the Thomas Jefferson! (Photo from NOAA)
The NOAA Maine Operations Center – Atlantic in Norfolk, VA, where I did my undergraduate internship for two summers, and where I’m heading to join the Thomas Jefferson! (Photo from NOAA)

Students, I promise… my blog posts from when I’m at sea will be filled with photos and short video clips and exciting stories about oceanographic research that is current and happening NOW!  I wish I could take all of you on the ship with me, but I’ll try to do my best to share my entire experience with you when it comes to not only the research but the equipment used, what it is like to live and work on a ship, and career options available for those that want to head out to sea for themselves!  More about the Thomas Jefferson and the entire NOAA fleet in my next post…


But first, GEOSC 040 students, you need a little more background on what NOAA is all about.  I want you to read through the website About NOAA, watch the video about NOAA below the questions, and read through the NOAA Teacher at Sea website.  Please answer these questions online in ANGEL (that’s our online course management system for non-Penn Staters) in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #1.

  1. What does NOAA stand for? (*we’ll start with an easy question!)
  2. Provide a one-paragraph summary about the areas of research completed by NOAA scientists. (*the video and About page will give you a start, but also go through the overall NOAA website – you might be surprised at how much NOAA covers of our planet!)
  3. What should I do to make sure my NOAA Teacher at Sea experience (while at sea and when I return) matches what is expected in the Ocean Literacy Principles, and helps others become ocean literate? (*this requires some thought! Think back to our exercise the first day in class)


Something to think about…

You know, I always tell my students that my job as an educator is to open the door to their learning – but it is up to each of them to step through that door and take advantage of new opportunities.  Now looking back, I’m surprised I waited so long to get back out to sea, especially when I knew about the NOAA Teacher at Sea program.  Clearly, I need to take my own advice!


Anyone have any questions for me before I head out to sea?  Feel free to post them below, and I’ll respond to as many as I can!

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