Jill Bartolotta: Introduction, May 21, 2019


NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jill Bartolotta

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

May 29 – June 14, 2019


Mission:  Mapping/Exploring the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin and Blake Plateau 

Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau

Date: May 21, 2019

Weather Data (from Cleveland, OH):

Latitude: 41.53° N

Longitude: 81.67° W

Lake Wave Height: 1ft

Wind Speed: 8.6 knots

Wind Direction: 0 degrees

Visibility: 8.6nm

Air Temperature: 11°C

Barometric Pressure: 1021.7 mb

Sky: Overcast

Introduction

In one week I will be landing in Key West, Florida ready to begin my journey as a Teacher at Sea aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. As a native to the northern shores of Ohio along the coast of Lake Erie, the ocean is a distant place only visited on family vacations, through books, or in my dreams. Throughout my childhood we visited the ocean several times and I fell in love with all things ocean. My curiosity and love for the ocean deepened as I let Jules Verne and Captain Nemo take me “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” where I saw a colossal squid, massive schools of fish, and learned about animals that glow in the dark. As I watched shows, read magazines, and saw pictures, I began to learn more about what lies below and was fascinated by how little we actually know about the ocean. Did you know we know more about space than we do about the ocean? My curiosity intensified as I began to realize a career in marine biology was possible for a young woman from Cleveland, Ohio. But my curiosity only ever stayed near the shore. I was always interested in the ships that went out to sea for weeks on end to discover new sea life, conduct fish population assessments, or map the ocean floor. However, they were out to sea and my close-toed shoes and I were still on land…well, more accurately, in the tide pools. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be on one of these ships. Well I am! My close-toed shoes and I are heading to sea!

photo_jillbartolotta
Exploring the coast of Maine in my tide pooling boots. Photo Credit: Joshua Layne

Before I get too wrapped up in the weeks to come I would like to tell you a little bit about myself. I grew up east of Cleveland, Ohio on the southern shores of Lake Erie. I spend most of my free time out on the water on my paddleboard or taking my dog, Luna, on grand land adventures. We tried the whole paddling thing with her. It failed epically. My love for water led me to the most amazing job. I work as an Extension Educator for Ohio Sea Grant. There are 34 Sea Grant programs across the country that work with coastal communities to sustainably manage and use their coastal resources. Much of my work is centered on educating youth on the human-caused issues of Lake Erie such as invasive species, harmful algal blooms, and marine debris (trash in waterways). I also conduct research on the use of disposable plastics to better understand why humans use so many of them and what behaviors can we change to encourage them to use less. My career is very rewarding because every day I teach others about Lake Erie and together we learn how to improve her health. My time as a Teacher at Sea will allow me to learn more about the ocean so I can bring all her wonders home to the people of Ohio. Many people where I leave have never even been to Lake Erie so the chances of them visiting the ocean is slim. I will be able to bring the ocean to them making this experience so important to those I teach.

marine-debris-outreach
Sarah, Sue, and I teaching students about marine debris at Cedar Point Match, Science, and Physics Week. Photo Credit: Kathy Holbrook

Mission Information

The journey will be epic, the days long, and the sunsets magnificent. Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so excited and honored to be able to share my time at sea with all of you. Together, we will explore the ocean deep, map areas of poorly understood ocean floor, and dabble in some seasickness. Don’t worry! I will only give you the play by play for the first two. To begin our trip we depart from Key West and cruise for 16 days until we make landfall in Port Canaveral. Our mission is to map poorly understood areas of the ocean floor off the southern and eastern tips of Florida known as the Southern Atlantic Bight and Blake Plateau. Operations will take place 24/7 (don’t worry I got you covered when you need to get your zzzs) and will rely on the use of sonar to map these poorly understood areas. I promise to learn all about the equipment on board and share it with all of you. We will be tech wizards by the time we are done.

The mapping operation is actually part of a multi-year, multi-national collaboration campaign called the Atlantic Seafloor Partnership for Integrated Research and Exploration (ASPIRE). The purpose of the campaign is to further our knowledge of the Atlantic Ocean which is a goal of the Galway Statement of Atlantic Ocean Cooperation. The US, Canada, and the European Union developed the Galway Statement of Atlantic Ocean Cooperation to further our understanding on the Atlantic Ocean in support of increased knowledge and ocean stewardship. I will learn more about ASPIRE and the Galway Statement of Atlantic Ocean Cooperation while on board and share a more detailed account so we can all better understand why mapping operations and increased knowledge of the Atlantic Ocean are important for current and future generations.

Not only will I provide you with detailed accounts of all the science happening on board, I will learn about those who call the sea their home. I will share their stories and journeys in case an ocean career is of interest to you. I will share the crests (ups) and troughs (challenges) of life at sea. Such as what we do for fun. I have heard through the grapevine cribbage is a popular pastime. I am not familiar with this game so any tips you want to share with me will be greatly appreciated. Help give me an edge on the competition.

Luna is ready for sea!
Luna is ready for sea!

I hope my first blog has given you a glimpse of what is to come over the next three weeks. My time at sea quickly approaches and my last days at home will be spent playing with Luna, packing as lightly as possible (very challenging), breathing in the non-salty Lake Erie air, and mentally preparing to be completely out of my comfort zone. As I have said already, I am happy to take this journey to sea with all of you, thank you for your support, and I look forward to our three weeks together. See you in Key West!

paddleboard
Farewell Lake Erie! The ocean awaits! Photo Credit: Connie Murzyn

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