Kimberly Scantlebury: Interviews with OPS and ST; May 4, 2017


NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kimberly Scantlebury

Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

May 1-May 12, 2017

Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: May 4, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 10:25

Latitude: 2823.2302 N, Longitude: 9314.2797 W

Wind Speed: 12 knots, Barometric Pressure: 1009 hPa

Air Temperature: 19.3 C, Water Temperature: 24.13 C

Salinity: 35.79 PSU, Conditions: Cloudy, 6-8 foot waves

Science and Technology Log

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The crew of NOAA Ship Pisecs. Some people have asked me if it is an all male crew. Nope! Even two out of the six NOAA Corps are ladies.

Mother Nature has put a hamper on surveying for right now. Field work requires patience and tenacity, which is appropriate given that is the motto of NOAA Ship Pisces: Patiencia Et Tenacitas. During this downtime I was able to interview a couple members of the crew. Our first interview is with the Operations (Ops) Officer, LT. Noblitt:

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The emblem of NOAA Ship Pisces.

The NOAA Corps is one of seven uniformed services of the U.S. What are possible paths to join and requirements? Do you need a college degree to apply?
Yes, you need a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering.  The only path is through the application process which starts with contacting a recruiter. NOAA Corps officers are always willing to work with interested applicants and are willing to give tours as well as to field any and all questions.

When did you know you wanted to pursue this career?
I decided I wanted to pursue a career with the NOAA Corps during graduate school when I realized that I desired a career path which combined my appreciation for sailing tall ships and pursuing scientific research.

What is your rank and what responsibilities does that entail?
I am an O3, Lieutenant; the responsibilities include operational management.  A lot of day to day operations and preparation for scientific requests, ship port logistics, and some supervision. Operation Officers keep the mission moving forward and always try to plan for what is next.

Why is your work important?
By supporting the scientists we are able to assist in enhancing public knowledge, awareness, and growth of the scientific community which ultimately not only benefits the Department of Commerce but the environment for which we are working in.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?
There is nothing better then operating a ship. I enjoy the feel of the vessel and harnessing the elements to make the ship move how I choose. I enjoy knowing that I am working on something that is bigger than just the ship. This job is a microcosm of all the science that is going on around the world and knowing that we are contributing to the growth of the nation, well nothing can really compete with that.

What is the most challenging part of your work?
In all honesty, being away from family simply does get challenging at times. You are guaranteed to miss birthdays, special events, and even births of your children. Gratification comes from knowing that you are providing everything you can for your family.

What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?
Now this is an interesting question; I would have to say there really is not just one tool as a NOAA Corps Officer we pride ourselves in being versatile. If it weren’t for the ability to use multiple tools we would not be capable of running and operating a ship.

How many days are you usually out at sea a year?
On average the ship sails 295 days a year.

What does an average day look like for you on the NOAA Ship Pisces?
You are living the average day. Day and night operations three meals a day and keeping operations moving smoothly, all this happens as the ship becomes a living entity and takes on a personality of her own.

What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?
In the beginning and early on in a NOAA Corps career an Officer may feel underutilized especially in regards to their educational background when they are working on trivial duties, however with growth over time our scientific backgrounds serve us more than we realize.

What’s at the top of your recommendation for a young person exploring a uniformed service or a maritime career?
If you are seeking to travel and discover an unknown lifestyle at sea; being a Commissioned Officer is a truly diverse whirlwind of experiences that goes by faster then you realize.

What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?
If I was not working for NOAA I would probably try working for a similar governmental entity, or even NOAA as a civilian, studying near coastal benthic (bottom of aquatic) ecosystems.

Our second interview is with Todd Walsh, who is a Survey Technician on NOAA Ship Pisces:

What is your title and what responsibilities does that entail?

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Modern vessels require a team of technicians to run. Pictured here is part of the computer server on NOAA Ship Pisces.

Operations and some equipment maintenance of position sensors, sonars, and software. You need to know water chemistry because you also take water samples such as temperature, depth, conductivity to determine the speed of sound. From that we can make sure the sonar is working right, so you need the math to make it happen.

Pisces is different than some other NOAA vessels because it has a lot of other sensors. On some other NOAA vessels I have worked on there are also smaller boats that have the same equipment to keep in shape. You also need to analyze the data and make recommendations in a 60 page report in 90 days.

What are the requirements to apply for this job?
A bachelor’s of science in computer mapping, engineering, geology, meteorology, or some other similar degree.

When did you know you wanted to pursue this career?
I was a project engineer for an engineering company prior to this. We did work on airports, bridges, etc. I retired and then I went back to work in 2009 and I’ve been working for NOAA ever since. I got involved with NOAA because I wanted to see Hawaii and I found a job on board a ship that would take me there. I’ve now worked in the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific.

Why is your work important?
No matter which NOAA division you are working at it is integral to commerce in the country. The work we are doing here is important for red snapper and other fisheries. The work I did in the Bering Strait helped determine crab stocks. Ever watch Deadliest Catch? I got to play darts with the captain of the Time Bandit. There’s a different code for people who are mariners. You help each other out.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?
I like that we get to go exploring in places that most people never get to go (in fact, some places have never been visited before), with equipment that is cutting edge. There are always puzzles to solve. You also meet a lot of different people.

What is the most challenging part of your work?
It is:
-Man versus nature.
-Man versus machine.
-Man versus self because you are pushed to your limits.
Another challenge is missing my wife and kids.

What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?
Since you are stuck on a boat, the biggest tool is to be able to deal with that through being friendly and having ways to occupy yourself in downtime.

Work-wise, it used to be the calculator. Now it’s the computer because it can do so much. All the calculations that used to be done by pen and calculator are now by computer. Cameras are also very useful.

How many days are you usually out at sea a year?
Used to be 8 months out of 12. That’s tough since there is no cellphone coverage but some ships are close enough to shore to use them. The oceanographic vessel Ronald H. Brown went around the world for 3 years.

What does an average day look like for you on the NOAA Ship Pisces?
I’m relatively new to this ship, but all ships are unique depending on what they’re studying. Each ship is a different adventure.

What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?
When I was in Alaska training less experienced survey technicians in the Bering Strait, I got to see really neat stuff like being next to a feeding orca, atop a glacier, and got too close to a grizzly bear.

What’s at the top of your recommendation for a young person exploring a maritime career?
Stick with the science classes and you can never go wrong with learning more math.

Personal Log

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Imagine the size of the wave capable of getting the top wet!

When bringing in a camera array today that was left out overnight, a huge wave crashed aboard all the way up to the top of the bridge. At that same time I was in my stateroom laying down trying to avoid seasickness. I could hear the metal moving, the engines running strong, and knew something interesting was happening. I almost went down to check out the action, but decided against bumping into everyone during higher seas operations and potentially really getting sick.  

Quote of the Day:
Joey asked which stateroom I am in and I say, “The one next to the turny-door-thingy.” to which Joey replies, “You mean the hatch?”
What can I say? If you can not remember a word, at least be descriptive.

Did You Know?

NOAA operates the nation’s largest fleet of oceanographic research and survey ships. It is America’s environmental intelligence agency.

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