NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
August 12-23, 2019
Mission: Cascadia Mapping Project
Geographic Area of Cruise: Northwest Pacific
Women in STEM: Iris Ekmanis
Iris Ekmanis is currently a Junior Officer with the NOAA Corps.
On this Teacher at Sea mission, Officer Ekman is currently on bridge watch, and is a training and small craft officer.
Current Position: Junior Deck Officer on Bridge Watch, training officer, small boats officer
3-4 other duties in addition to watch.
Years at NOAA: 2.5 months after a 4-month basic training
College and/or specialized training:
2017 Bachelors of Marine Science from University of Hawaii
Junior Officer Ekmanis worked as a deckhand on tourism boats, dive boats, whale watching, and worked on a small live-aboard cruise ship.
- When you were a child, what was your dream career?
I wanted to be a marine biologist – but then I fell in love with being out on the water and on boats. Surrounded by the science of hydrography, I really like driving small boats and like the navigation part of my job.
2. Do you have any plans to continue your education while working for NOAA?
We get the GI bill since we are uniformed service (after 3 years with NOAA) so I’m considering a master’s in marine biology.
3. What was your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject was outdoor education. I went to high school in New Zealand so there were outdoor education, whitewater kayaks, rock climbing, caving. My favorite academic subjects were biology & geography.
4. At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to do the work you are doing now?
I heard about NOAA in college, so I applied, I completed basic training and have been working for 2 ½ months.
5. What would you tell an elementary school student about your work that is most important?
We are out here charting the seafloor to ensure safe navigation for other mariners who are traveling through the Pacific. All kinds of cruise ships, fisherman, and cargo ships travel through the Pacific and must get there safely. Also, it is important that we are researching the fault lines to learn more about earthquakes and tsunamis.
We navigate the ship to ensure safety and collaborate with the hydrotechs (hydrographic technicians) to make sure the ship’s travels are resulting in good hydrographic surveys.
6. What is the most enjoyable or exciting part of your work?
I would say it is constantly learning new skills. Every day, I’m on the bridge learning about navigation, on the launchers learning about hydrography, and the “office view” changes every day. Every single day is different, and most times wake up in a new place. I’m learning something new every day!
7. Where do you do most of your work?
Mostly on the bridge 8 hours a day, rest of the time working on computers, or my training workbooks, plotting courses, planning our next route. A lot of charting.
8. What tool do you use every day that you couldn’t live without?
Definitely the software systems that allow us to navigate, radar, etc.
9. What tool would you bring aboard to make your job easier?
Multi beam sonar that could see in front of us instead of below us, since we are in uncharted waters that would alleviate the possibility of us running into something.
10. Is there any part of your NOAA job that you didn’t expect?
The job is hands on right away, and the job is fast paced and very diverse. You started doing the jobs right away. I’m looking forward to learning more about hydro.
11. How could teachers help student understand and appreciate NOAA science?
NOAA science is so broad, we are doing a small part in our survey missions, but the science of NOAA is extensive. Check out the student opportunities and educational resources.
12. What is the favorite part of your day and why?
My favorite time was in Alaska, in the launches (small boats) and navigating a vessel though the Inside Channel. Navigating through SE Alaska was beautiful! I also enjoyed seeing humpback whales and occasionally orcas.
13. What was your favorite book when you were growing up?
My favorite book series was Harry Potter when I was growing up. My idols were Jacques Cousteau and Sylvia Earle .
14. What would you be doing if you weren’t working for NOAA?
If I didn’t work for NOAA I would definitely be doing something in the marine science field or in the maritime industry, I love boats! I would probably be working on a boat or doing something in the ocean.
15. Do you have an outside hobby?
My outside hobbies include: paddle boarding, surfing, scuba, free diving, outrigger canoes were my passion growing up, hiking, camping, anything outdoors.
16. What is your favorite animal?
Hawaiian spinner dolphin and whale sharks.
17. If you could go back in time and tell you 10-year-old self something, what would it be?
Keep pursuing your dreams, don’t take life too seriously, enjoy life and enjoy the ride.
Interested in a career as a NOAA Corps Officer like Junior Officer Ekamanis? Want to learn more? See the resource links below:
-NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps