Jill Bartolotta: Future Explorers, June 3, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jill Bartolotta

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

May 30 – 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: June 3, 2019

Weather Data:

Latitude: 28°48.6’

Longitude: 079°26.8’

Wave Height: 1-2 feet

Wind Speed: 4 knots

Wind Direction: 158

Visibility: 10 nautical miles

Air Temperature: 27.9°C

Barometric Pressure: 1014

Sky: scattered

Explorer in Training

A part of this mission is to map previously unmapped area in the southeast Atlantic Ocean but another part is to train the next generation of ocean explorers. There are currently four Explorers in Training (EiTs) and one Knauss Fellow on the Okeanos Explorer who are learning about the process of mapping and processing data at sea.

The Explorer in Training (EiT) Program sponsored trough the NOAA Office of Exploration and Research (OER). Their mission is to train the next generation of ocean explorers. Undergraduate, graduate students, and early career scientists are eligible to apply for the EiT Program. They will gain valuable knowledge and experience in deepwater mapping and exploration. The EiT Program is a partnership between OER and the Cooperative Program for the Advancement of Earth System Science (CPAESS), a community program of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). Applicants who are accepted will either be based onshore at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Exploration Command Center (ECC) in Durham, New Hampshire (Yay! my alma mater) or aboard Okeanos Explorer. The EiT Program also partners with the NOAA Educational Partnership Program (EPP) to support traditionally underrepresented minority populations in STEM careers.

The four EiTs aboard are Allisa Dalpe, Jahnelle Howe (EPP), Marcel Peliks, and Kitrea Takata-Glushkoff. All have come from ocean mapping or engineering programs at their universities and are very excited to be a part of this program.

Explorers in Training
EiTs heading to sea! From left to right: Katharine, Allisa, Marcel, Kitrea, and Jahnelle.

Allisa, originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Hampshire in Ocean Engineering. Her studies focus on the use of autonomous marine vehicles such as remotely operated vehicles (ROV). She is most interested in mission planning, decision making, and obstacle avoidance when mapping or collecting data. Allisa is a seasoned sailor as she participated in SEA Semester (Sea Education Association in Woods Hole) as a student and then returned as a deckhand when she sailed from Woods Hole to Cork, Ireland. Way cool! When I asked Allisa how this opportunity will compliment her Ph.D work she said that this mission will her develop algorithms for autonomous vehicles performing sea floor mapping. In layman terms, how to develop the blueprint for what decisions the robot will need to make while on a mission. Fun fact about Allisa, she plays the drums.

Jahnelle, originally from the Island of Montserrat in the Caribbean, is a Master’s student at City College in New York. Her focus of study is Earth and Atmospheric Science. She is interested in coastal resilience with specific focus on how coral bleaching events affect community structure through the use of remote sensing. Jahnelle became interested in her field of study because the country where she grew up had an active volcano. When the volcano erupted it would emit sulfur and carbon dioxide. She was interested in how it affected her community. Because of her childhood she is interested in how we affect the environment and how it affects us. Fun fact about Jahnelle, she is a creative writer of poems and short stories.

Marcel is currently in the process of completing his Master’s degree in Geological Oceanography at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. A native to Poland, he moved to California in his teens and became interested in marine geology because he was fascinated with how much of the ocean is still unexplored. His thesis focuses on the use of multibeam sonar to map Monterey Canyon in California and asses how the canyon impacts sand transport on surrounding beaches. His dream career is to continue combining technology and geology to learn more about our planet. Fun fact about Marcel, he had his first corn dog at the age of 25.

Kitrea recently finished Bowdoin College with majors in Earth and oceanographic science and Russian. She will actually be finishing her credits in Russia come spring of 2020. Congratulations on almost being done! She is now interested in bringing her knowledge of geology and oceanography together by exploring the field of marine geology. When I ask Kitrea what this experience means for her she says that it is the opportunity to test run potential career paths within geoscience. More specifically to experience life at sea and delve deeper into the data collection and management side of mapping. So far she’s loving it all. Fun Fact about Kitrea, she is a ballet and modern dance teacher.

Knauss Fellowship

The Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship, named for John A. Knauss, one of Sea Grant’s founders and past NOAA Administrator, is a fellowship that places highly qualified graduate students in host agencies in the legislative or executive branches of the federal government. Interested students apply through their state Sea Grant program. Sea Grant is a nationwide program consisting of 34 programs in coastal areas (ocean and Great Lakes) focusing on research, outreach, and education. Sea Grant programs are federally supported by NOAA and a state university partner. For example, Ohio Sea Grant’s (my program) state university partner is The Ohio State University. Applicants who are selected for a Knauss Fellowship work for one year with their host organization. Many Knauss Fellows continue to work for their host organization or find similar positions with federal agencies after the fellowship. OER’s 2019 Knauss Fellow, Katharine Egan, who applied through Puerto Rico Sea Grant, is on board.

Katharine studied marine biology as an undergraduate student at the University of Rhode Island and received her Master’s degree from the University of the Virgin Islands in Marine and Environmental Science. A native to Pennsylvania, Katharine started studying marine science because the ocean was vastly different from where she grew up. She is a first generation college student and came from a landlocked area so marine science was tempting because of the adventures and new experiences it would bring. Since her time in school, Katharine has a multitude of experience studying coral reef ecology and geospatial analysis. In her Knauss Fellow role with OER, she is responsible for determining data gaps in OER’s standard operations and making OER data more accessible. Fun fact about Katharine, she read 54 books in 2018. Her favorite book out of the 54 was In the Distance by Herman Diaz. 

To learn even more about the exploration team on board visit the OER website.

learning the intercom system
EiTs and the Knauss Fellow learning how to use the intercom system on the ship. The intercom is used for ship wide communication. From front to back: Kitrea, Katharine, Marcel, and Allisa.

Personal Log

Life at sea is pretty sweet. I am used to the movement of the ship. It is actually starting to put me to sleep so staying awake is challenging. My bed is super comfy and the room is actually pretty big. The food has also been amazing. We are very lucky to have such great cooks on board. There is also 24/7 access to ice cream. My hopes of shedding a few pounds have pretty much gone out the porthole.

top bunk
My bed. I haven’t slept in a bunk bed since freshman year of college. I did my best job of making the bed, but it is pretty hard when you are holding on with one hand, swaying, and trying not to hit your head.

There are times when I forget we are on ship out at sea and then I look outside and remember where I am. It does get hard living in close quarters with so many people. I find that taking time to get outside to read or workout is super helpful. The weather so far has been wonderful. Sunny and warm most days with a nice breeze to keep it from getting too hot. My favorite time of the day is right before the sun sets when I do a yoga session to decompress from the day. After yoga I sit on the deck and watch the stars appear as I read my book. I have officially found my happy place. 

workout spot
My workout spot on the ship. A great view of the ocean makes the workout less challenging.

Did You Know?

Okeanos’ namesake is the Greek Titan god of the ocean. Well, actually, a river. The Ancient Greeks believed the ocean was a vast river circling the world.

Instruments Played by the EiTs

Allisa: Drums

Katharine: Flute

Jahnelle: Violin

Kitrea: Dances

Marcel: Guitar

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