NOAA Teacher at Sea
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!
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.
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.