Lauren Wilmoth: Get Ready! October 2, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lauren Wilmoth
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
October 4 – 17, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Kodiak Island
Date: October 2, 2014


My name is Lauren Wilmoth, and I have been teaching biology at Jefferson County High School in Dandridge, TN for 3 years.  Prior to teaching in Jefferson County, I conducted research on pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) caterpillars in East Tennessee as a part of my master’s thesis at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.  My research involved a lot of hiking in the woods and catching butterflies with my net.  Who wouldn’t enjoy that?  I learned a lot about how science works while obtaining my master’s degree, and now, as a teacher, I get to share my fascination with nature and my expertise with my students!

Portuguese Man-of-War
A Portuguese Man-of-War (Physalia physalis) like the one I saw as a child. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

I grew up in Alabama, and like many families in Alabama, mine spent many spring breaks at the beach.  We camped every year at state parks on the Florida panhandle.  It was on these trips that I began to appreciate the ocean as a fun and interesting place.  We enjoyed the dune trails and the peculiar dune ecosystems.  We even went deep sea fishing one time, and I didn’t get seasick!  (Hopefully, I will be able to say the same after this trip).  I distinctly remember one time when a Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish (Physalia physalis) washed ashore.  It was the highlight of my trip to see this strange creature I had never even heard of! Although I grew up enjoying the ocean and it’s bounty (crab and shrimp are my favorites), I didn’t start to understand its importance until I became a biology major in college (oddly enough in the landlocked state of Arkansas).  No matter where you live, you are connected to the ocean through its role in our climate, our water cycle, and as the main source of oxygen on our planet among other things.  The ocean intrigues me with its mystery, and that is the reason I applied to be a part of this NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Teacher at Sea Program. I am thrilled about this once in a lifetime opportunity to help with hydrographic research off of the coast of Alaska this fall.  In fact, I learned the news of which cruise I would be on while at Dublin Airport after an amazing vacation with my husband in Ireland.  I checked my e-mail and let out an audible shrill of excitement.

My mother-in-law and me at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland earlier this summer.

I have never been to Alaska, and I know very little about hydrographic research.  This cruise excites me, because I will have the opportunity to learn something complete new, and after the cruise, I will be able to share what I learned with my students and colleagues! In case you were wondering, hydrographic research involves mapping the ocean floor which is particularly important for safe navigation in these waters.  Also, hydrographic research can involve determining the composition of the seafloor.  If you want to learn more about hydrographic surveys, click on the link.  Of course, you can also learn more about our hydrographic survey by continuing to read my blog during my trip. To complete this hydrographic research, I will be working with the NOAA team aboard the NOAA Ship Rainier.  It contains a lot of fancy equipment used to complete these surveys that I hope to gain a better understanding of on this trip.  This is a large ship.  It is 231 feet long and is equipped with a dining area and 8 smaller boats!  To give you some perspective on its size, it would reach from the end goal line on a football field to the 23rd yard line on the opposite side of the field!  To learn more about NOAA ship Rainier click the link.  Stay tuned to my blog to hear firsthand what life aboard NOAA Ship Rainier is like.

Rainier through an iceberg. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

8 Replies to “Lauren Wilmoth: Get Ready! October 2, 2014”

  1. Hey! Are you having fun? Are you seasick yet? We hope not! We would all like to know if you have learned anything new yet. How’s the weather? Is it super cold?

    Your favorite class
    3rd period

    1. I am having so much fun and learning constantly. You will read all about it in my newest blog posts.

      I am not seasick, because we haven’t left yet. I did go on a smaller boat, and the water was pretty choppy. I didn’t get sick. We are expecting pretty rough seas once we leave though (7 to 9 foot swells). They will be giving out seasick medicine prior to this, so I think I will be taking advantage of that.

      The weather is not bad. It has been partly cloudy to sunny everyday but chilly. A cold front came through right before I got here. Before I was here, the CO (Commanding Officer) told me he was hiking in shorts. Now, the highs are in the upper 30s.

  2. Trentin wants to know if your boat has GPS so that we can follow your movements.
    Can you send us a selfie? Are you taking lots of pictures for us to see?
    We’d like to know if you are safe? Have you had to do any push ups yet?
    On a scale from 1-10, 10 being “feel it in muh bones” how cold are you right now?
    Is it better than the Titanic?


    1. We have GPS. You can track us at once we get underway. Unfortunately, we haven’t left yet, because the ship is undergoing repairs. We should be leaving Friday.

      I will see what I can do about the selfie. I am taking a ton of pictures. Over 200 so far!

      I am very safe! We review safety procedures daily.

      I haven’t had to do any push-ups, and I don’t think they are going to have me do any. 🙂

      It’s not crazy cold. It did snow a little today. The highs have been in the upper 30s, but most of the time, we are in the ship. The ship has heating, so it’s not a problem. When I am outside I am at about a 6.

      This is WAY better than the Titanic!

  3. How long until the information collected is invalid? The ocean current must bring about changes in the placement and distribution of objects on the ocean floor so at what point in time would they have to “regraph” everything? Are there certain areas of the ocean floor that will change at a quicker rate than others? If so, do they graph those more frequently than other area to keep them updated? Hope you’re having a great time!

    1. The data doesn’t really become invalid, because it is the best information we have at the time. I guess you may consider it invalid once new measurements are taken. You are correct that the ocean floor is fairly dynamic in places, so it can change a lot. Also, some areas change quicker than other area according to the currents, bottom type, traffic, and weather. For example, an area that experiences frequent hurricanes will probably see more changes than areas that don’t have as many hurricanes. Every mariner should realize that the ocean floor is dynamic, but it would be impossible to continuously map the ocean floor using the techniques we are currently using. They do prioritize where the surveys occur according to various factors including how much the ocean floor changes! Other things to consider when determining the priorities include how traveled is the area and how recently was it surveyed. An extremely remote area that hardly sees traffic would likely be less of a priority than an area that has traffic all of the time, but if the area that has a lot of traffic was surveyed last year and the remote area hasn’t been surveyed since the 1700s, then the remote area might have priority. The area we are surveying right now hasn’t been surveyed since before 1939 which is when they used a technique called lead lining. With this technique, it is possible to miss DTONs. Also, the area we are surveying has a fair amount of fishing traffic and could possibly have more tourism traffic in the future. Thank you for the great questions. I am having a great time!

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