Nikki Durkan: Introductions! June 4, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nikki Durkan
Boarding NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson next week!
Date Range at Sea: June 11 – 30, 2015

Mission: Acoustic-trawl Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: Thursday, June 4 2015


Hello from Steamboat Springs, Colorado!  This is my 7th year living in this spectacular Rocky Mountain town at 6,900 feet/2103 meters.  I currently teach biology, geography, AP environmental science, and global politics at an independent high school called the Steamboat Mountain School.  I love this little, adventurous school and feel fortunate to call our campus in the woods my home.  As I finish up my teaching responsibilities at the end of the year and say goodbye to my talented, fun-loving, and hilarious students (a good sense of humor is requisite for teaching high schoolers), I always take time to reflect on how I can improve my craft as an instructor for next year.  What better way to sharpen my inquiry skills than to live at sea with scientists for 20 days?  I applied to the Teacher at Sea program looking for a top notch research experience to enrich my curriculum and obviously for the adventure this program affords me!

I believe I first became enamoured with marine science as a young girl while exploring the beaches surrounding Buzzards Bay – it was here that I discovered the fascinating lives of horseshoe crabs!  Did you know their baby blue blood contains a chemical superpower used to verify bacterial contamination in every FDA approved drug?

In college at the University of Colorado, Boulder, I earned my degrees in biology and secondary science education.  And before moving to Steamboat Springs, I lived in Maui, Hawaii with my family where I worked for the Pacific Whale Foundation as a naturalist.  My time out on the ocean gave me an even deeper appreciation for the wonders of our water world.  Every single day on the ocean is different from the next, full of surprises and new discoveries to be made.  I am thankful and proud to become a member of the Teacher at Sea Program!

One of my passions: nordic skiing!
One of my passions: Nordic skiing!

Currently, my courses conduct biodiversity plot studies, forest transects, monitor water and soil quality, record secondary succession in a fire mitigation area, and now have created a functioning aquaponics system with tilapia!  

Zip-grow tower from Brightagrotech in our greenhouse!
Zip-grow tower from Brightagrotech in our greenhouse!

Our tilapia live in an in-ground tank from which we pump water into a network of irrigation tubes (attached to a repurposed bed frame) that then waters eight Zip-grow towers.  The fish excrement provides much needed nutrients for the plants and the fish are happy because their water is returned after being filtered through the plant root system.  Farmed fish is beginning to play a significant role in our food supply. This brings me to a recent article in Outside magazine that I found quite interesting (thanks for sharing, David!).  I look forward to learning more about how the health of the fisheries in Alaska are measured and what role the scientists on board believe farmed fish should or will play in our diet for the future.  NOAA also has a great resource to help make decisions on our seafood choices.


Please checkout the ship’s website for an overview of our mission.

My home for the next month.
My home for the next month. Photo credit: NOAA ship tracker

I head to Kodiak, Alaska on Monday, June 8th to meet the ship crew and scientists before we embark on our trip.  Please send me comments, questions, and suggestions for my blog, I greatly appreciate your feedback.   Time to start packing!

4 Replies to “Nikki Durkan: Introductions! June 4, 2015”

  1. So exciting Nikki. I hope you get to travel with some ice while you research, study and learn.

  2. What a great adventure for a very deserving person. I look forward to reading about your work and studies

  3. Yay for the Nikster! Wish you lots of fish and delightful company. We look forward to hearing about your adventure. (As always)

  4. Hi Nikki, I’ve really enjoyed reading your reports and hearing about your experiences. Thanks to you, I’ve learned about stuff I never knew existed. Enjoy the balance of your work.

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