Tom Jenkins: Final Post, May 8, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tom Jenkins
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
April 10 – 27, 2018

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographic Area: Northeastern U.S. Coast
Date: May 3rd, 2018

Personal Log

When I applied to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea, I really didn’t know what to expect.  To learn more, I read through previous TAS blogs. It seemed that every teacher had a truly unique research cruise experience.  The type of mission, the ship (and it’s crew), and the composition of the science team were among other variables all factoring into their experiences.  To be truthful, the more I read, the more excited (maybe a tad anxious) I became about my upcoming adventure.

The ship that was utilized by the Northeastern Fisheries Science Center to carry out the Spring Bottom Trawl Survey was the Henry B. Bigelow.   Once onboard, I found this vessel so impressive, that I devoted an entire blog to the subject:

What I didn’t know at the time was that her crew was equally impressive.  Every single crew member made me feel extremely welcome. The officers on the bridge provided a wonderful overview of how they run the ship, the engineers did a great job of allowing me to explore many of the moving parts within this floating city.  The cooks did an amazing job of providing us with seemingly endless amounts of a wide range of very tasty food. In retrospect, I laugh at the fact that I originally planned to diet during my 18 days at sea!

I was selected for a fisheries cruise.  This meant I would serve as 1 of the 14 member science team aboard the ship (Read more about the Spring Bottom Trawl Survey by reading this blog:

NOAA ship Bigelow cruise tracks over lay on ocean map
NOAA ship Bigelow cruise tracks over lay on ocean map

While I did appreciate that few people have an opportunity to participate in this kind of study,  I couldn’t have imagined just how cool it was really going to be! Not only were there extremely large fish, but there was more diversity than I would have ever thought I would find off the coast of New England.  I found myself fascinated by fairly routine things: the length of a shrimp’s antenna, the dining habits of a lamprey, a skate’s eye, and the locomotion of an octopus. And that laundry list doesn’t even include the phronima that we found.  Did you know this intriguing little amphipod served as the inspiration for the namesake of the Alien movie franchise!? Obviously, I was able to witness wonders both large and small which stirred my intellectual curiosity and has inspired me to think of clever ways in which to incorporate these highly specialized adaptations into my curriculum.

After spending 16 nights aboard the Bigelow, I am convinced it’s the people that make the mission.  Not only was the ship’s crew great, but the science team was phenomenal! I can’t underestimate the value of this last statement as these were the people that shared almost every moment of my odyssey.  Without exception, they were knowledgeable, passionate, and all-around good people. I was encouraged to slow down as to better admire nature’s wonders. They were patient and took the time to explain ideas that would help me understand their scientific process.  These teachers helped me write blogs, answer my student’s questions, create video segments for an upcoming video, as well as brainstorm units of instruction for my classroom.  Their kindness as well as the aforementioned interactions quickly transitioned my initial role as an outsider (that was afraid to slow down the team) a to true member of the team that was also one of the gang.

To say my time spent as a Teacher at Sea was an incredible experience would be an understatement.   This immersive experience pushed me to grow in numerous ways. Thanks to this program, I am re-energized and find myself looking ahead to next school year.  While spending a significant amount time away from both my loved ones and students was a challenge, it was an adventure that I will never forget.

Me standing on the deck of NOAA ship Bigelow in front of a sunrise 
Me standing on the deck of NOAA ship Bigelow in front of a sunrise

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