“65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist (World Economic Forum).”
I can’t help but wonder what types of careers and jobs will be available for our students. However, I can speculate that marine science would have a huge piece on this “never-before-existed” future job pool when you consider seventy percent of our Earth’s surface is covered with ocean and among it eighty percent of it unmapped, unobserved and unexplored, according to NOAA. There are many different careers available within NOAA and I believe there will be many more new careers available for the future generations.
You may wonder and ask why oceans are still unexplored. One answer comes from Dr. Gene Carl Feldman, an oceanographer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He states that one of the biggest challenges of ocean exploration comes down to physics. In the depth of the ocean, there is zero visibility, extremely cold temperatures, and crushing amounts of pressure. He also states that “ In some ways, it’s a lot easier to send people into space than it is to send people to the bottom of the ocean”. It is hard to fathom what it looks, and feels like under the water, at least for me as a non-swimmer.
With technological advancements, who knows what mysteries will be solved in the world of oceans in the future? I think it is important to show our students to know the unknown world of oceans and inspire them to take careers related to marine science so that we can know more about our blue planet. Without knowing our oceans, there would be no future for our own existence.
It’s been a great learning experience while at sea for 12 days. I have learned so much, met incredible women and men, and made awesome friends.
As a STEM educator, the reason I wanted to apply for this opportunity is because I wanted to bring marine science into my school and community. By training, most of the time I spent time in various labs focusing on genetic studies using many biotechnological tools during my graduate study. But, it wasn’t until my NOAA experience to involve marine science research in the field. Much of my marine science knowledge comes from theory, reading books/ articles, or watching documentaries. This lack of experiential knowledge put me in a position where my students are also learning it from textbooks. However, now thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, I am confidently bringing any resources or tools related to the ocean, and atmosphere to my students. My plan is to create interdisciplinary project-based learning opportunities that involve challenging questions related to marine science.
Thank you NOAA Teacher at Sea Program for allowing me to participate once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and thank you NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson crew for hosting me with great hospitality, and allowing me to learn more about marine science.
Did you know?
Sometimes NOAA’s ships are open to the public for tours. In fact, I am planning to take my students to NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson sometime in September while it is still in Great Lakes.
Weather Data from the Bridge Latitude: 54° 09.9 N Longitude: 161° 46.3 W Wind: 22 knots NW Barometer: 1014.2 mb Visibility: 10 nautical miles Temperature: 55.6° F or 13.1° C Weather: Partly cloudy, no precipitation
Careers at Sea Log, or Meet the ….
Life at sea on the Ship Fairweather, this past week and a half, with some 42 crew members, has been something I have never experienced. The closest thing that I can think of was when I was in undergraduate geology field camp, living in close quarters for weeks on end, with the same people, working together towards a goal. But I knew all of those field camp students; we were in college together. This is different. Everyone works here on the Fairweather and this is their job and their home. We’re all adults and no one knows anyone when they first come aboard. So, if you are friendly, open to people and welcoming, you can get to know some folks quickly. If you’re shy or try to ease in slowly, it may be a harder adjustment, living on a 231-foot heaving, rolling, pitching and yawing, ice-strengthened, welded steel hydrographic survey vessel. It’s a unique environment. And there are a lot of different but interesting jobs that people do here on the Fairweather. Here are but a few of the mariners on the ship.
NOAA Corps – The first group of ship crew that I’ll talk about are NOAA Corps officers. NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps (or NOAA Corps) is one of the nation’s seven uniformed services and they are an integral part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA Corps support nearly all of NOAA’s programs and missions.
Commander Greenaway is the Executive Officer onboard Fairweather and that work entails a variety of tasks that all function under the heading “administering the ships business.” Greenaway’s number one job is as the ship’s Safety Officer and he has additional tasks that include purchase requests from the departments, lining up contractors, making sure everyone has their training up-to-date, handling human resource issues, and accounting of the ship’s finances. On the Fairweather, Greenaway is second in command. He loves being at sea and has always liked sailing, which is one of his hobbies when not on the ship. What Greenaway least expected to be doing as a NOAA Corps officer was managing people but he finds that he loves that part of the job. Greenaway has a bachelors of science degree in Physics from Brown University and a masters degree in Ocean Engineering from University in New Hampshire.
Ensign Jeffrey Calderon is a NOAA Corps Junior Officer and has been on Ship Fairweather for two years. Calderon was previously with the Air Force for eight years and also with the National Guard for about four years. His duties on the ship include driving small boats, doing hydrographic surveys, bridge duty on the ship, and he’s the medical officer on board. Calderon enjoys the challenges he gets with NOAA Corps and likes to manage small teams and decide priorities. He learned about NOAA Corps from his college advisor at the University of Maryland, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics.
Ensign Iris Ekmanis is also a Junior Officer who recently completed her basic training for the NOAA Corps. She has been on Ship Fairweather for about a month and a half. She chose NOAA Corps because she wanted to utilize her degree in Marine Science (from University of Hawaii, Hilo) and had worked on boats for six years. She likes that she has been learning new things everyday, like how to pilot the ship from the bridge, learning to coxswain a launch, and learning to use the hydrographic software to collect bathymetric data. In fact, when we left the dock in Dutch Harbor at the beginning of the leg, Ekmanis had the conn, which means she maneuvered the ship through her orders to the helm (although she had plenty of people around her in case she needed assistance.)
Survey team – The hydrographic survey team is involved in all aspects of collecting the data and generating the bathymetric surfaces that will be used to make updated nautical charts. They don’t drive the boats and ships, they run the software, take the casts that determine water salinity and temperature, tell the coxswain where to motor to next and then process the data back on Ship Fairweather. There are six members on the survey team; here are two of them.
Ali Johnson has been a hydrographer on the Ship Fairweather for two and a half years. She told me she always knew she wanted to work in ocean science in some capacity so she earned a degree in Environmental Studies at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. With this job, Johnson enjoys going to places that most people don’t ever get to see and one of the highlights was surveying while dodging icebergs and seeing the interesting bathymetry as a result of glacial deposits, another was seeing an advancing glacier up close. She is the hydrographer who showed me most of the ropes on the ship, the launch surveys and in the plot room.
Michelle Wiegert has been with NOAA Ship Fairweather since last September. Although she did not lay eyes on the ocean until she was nineteen, she always knew she would do some ocean-based work. Wiegert earned a double major in Biology and Spanish from Metropolitan State University of Denver in Colorado and studied Applied Science Marine Technology at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, NC. As a Survey team member, she loves that she is working at sea and the fact that every day is different and she is always learning new things.
Ship Stewards – The stewards are the crew members who make the three square meals a day. The food on Ship Fairweather has been outstanding and every meal seems like two or even three meals in one because the stewards offer so much variety, including vegetarian and vegan options. There are four stewards on the Fairweather and they are all as nice as can be. Here is one of them.
Carrie Mortell has been a steward with the Fairweather for two years and with NOAA for fifteen. She has ten years of commercial fisheries experience in southeast Alaska and she loves the ocean. Mortell told me she feels more comfortable at sea than on land. She likes to keep busy in her downtime by reading, writing letters, crocheting, cooking & baking and drawing.
Deck Department – The Fairweather’s Deck Department takes care of general ship maintenance, cleaning decks, painting, operating cranes, helming the ship, and coxswaining the launches. There are currently eight members of the Deck Department and I interviewed one for this post.
Eric Chandler has been an Able Seaman with NOAA for one and a half years. He has driven the launches, taught coxswains-in-training, been a ship medic, moved launches with a davit, repaired jammed grab samplers, and many other tasks. Chandler started working on boats in 2016 when he was a deckhand, educator and naturalist on tour boats out of Seward, AK. He has also been a professional photographer and an auto mechanic. Chandler likes being on a ship because he sees remote places, gets to learn new skills all the time, and likes the feeling of being self-sufficient.
Visitors to NOAA Ship Fairweather – I am a visitor to Ship Fairweather but I am not the only temporary person onboard. Here are two of the four of us who are “just passing through.”
Fernando Ortiz has been a Physical Scientist with NOAA since 2008 and works out of Western Regional Center in Seattle, WA. He was visiting the Fairweather on the same leg is mine. NOAA Physical Scientists normally work in the office but will go on a NOAA ship at least once a year to support field operations. Ortiz will possibly do the quality control check on the data for the Cape Newenham project in the future. Ortiz has a bachelor’s degree in Geography from the University of Washington, Seattle WA. His advice for people looking for a similar career is to take science classes and he emphasized having Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and programming experience.
Christine Burns is visiting from Washington, DC, where she is a Knauss Fellow through NOAA Sea Grant. She is on a one-year post-graduate marine policy fellowship with NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. She wanted to see what the hydrographic research going on so came out to Dutch Harbor as part of her fellowship. Burns has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, and a masters in Marine Science from the University of Georgia in Savannah, GA. As she was visiting like I was and we were both very much observers, Burns filled me in on some scholarship and internship ideas she has for high school students and those students thinking of careers and college after high school graduation. By the way, once you’re nearing the end of college or have graduated already, don’t forget that there is usually career advisory office and your alumni network at your institution. You can make connections, seek advice, ask about positions, among other important functions those offices and groups do for you. Hollings Scholars – for current college sophomores, this is an undergraduate scholarship and internship through NOAA EPP/MSI Undergraduate Scholarship Program – this is the Hollings Scholarship for students attending HBCU or Minority Serving Institutions Student Conservation Association – a good place to get work and volunteer experiences or a gap year opportunity, for people 18-35 interested in land management. Youth Conservation Corps – a summer youth employment program that engages young people in meaningful work experiences on national parks, forests, and so on. USAJobs – this link has summer internships for college students or recent graduates. Rotary Clubs can help students find scholarships and volunteer opportunities Unions – you can find paid internships or educational opportunities through unions for skills such as pipefitters, electrical, plumbing, etc.
Next post: the Engineering Department of the Ship Fairweather
I am impressed and awed by the people who have chosen living and working on a ship. When I first came aboard the Fairweather, I felt everything was a little cramped and the space was confined. I couldn’t figure out how to get around very well. Now, I don’t get lost as often. It isn’t easy to live and work on a ship, but there are plenty of folks on the Fairweather who happily chose it.
I’ve enjoyed looking out at sea as we are underway. I try to spot whales and other flying and leaping sea critters. We have one more long transit before arriving back to Dutch Harbor so I am going to head up to the flying bridge and see what I can see.
Did You Know?
The Fairweather makes its own potable water. When I was shown the engine room, I was also shown the reverse osmosis water making machine that turns sea water into fresh water. The ship never runs out!
Quote of the Day
“It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better.” – Sir Francis Drake
Mission: Leg III of SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July 2, 2019
“There are many good
fishermen and some great ones. But there is only one you.”
–Ernest Hemingway (Old Man and the Sea)
As I sit at my home computer, my mind is racing with thoughts of what I need to do before leaving for Mississippi. My family doesn’t quite know what I am doing aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II, not that I am sure either! They vacillate between images of cramped, hot quarters portrayed in old World War II movies like Das Boot (1981), which is about a German submarine crew. In contrast to the sailors traversing icy, choppy waters as in the reality TV show Deadliest Catch, which is about King Crab fishermen in Alaska’s Bering Sea. I am not sure my time aboard Oregon II will be either, but perhaps they will think me braver if I leave that picture in their minds ahead of my trip [wink, wink].
However, before I talk about my trip, I should take a step back and talk about where I came. I am from Oklahoma, one of the most landlocked areas of North America. I grew up in Oklahoma (both Tulsa and Oklahoma City), but have had many other experiences since then. I have been teaching at the collegiate level for 15 years. I mostly instruct high school students taking concurrent enrollment classes and community college students working on undergraduate general education requirements. I teach regional geography, folklife and traditional culture, and introduction to the humanities at Oklahoma State University—Oklahoma City (OSU-OKC) and Oklahoma City Community College. I am lead faculty in geography at OSU-OKC.
I earned my BA
from Sarah Lawrence College in New York (1994). I studied visual arts,
primarily painting and filmmaking, and cultural studies. I earned my MA in Folk
Studies from Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green (1998), and I earned my
PhD in Geography from the University of Oklahoma, Norman (2015). Through my
education and early adult life, I lived coast to coast in seven different
states. This education prepared me to work in the field of public history,
historic interpretation, community development, and arts administration in
addition to teaching at the collegiate level. Before teaching, I worked in
Washington, DC for Ralph Nader (yes, the clean water, clean air, clean
everything guy…oh, and he ran for president). I worked for several historic sites
and cultural agencies, including Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky Museum,
Historic Carnton, and the Tennessee Arts Commission. I have also worked in
education administration. I served as the director the Oklahoma Center for Arts
Education for the University of Central Oklahoma, as executive director of the
Oklahoma Folklife Council for the Oklahoma Historical Society, and recently, as
Director of Community Resources for Western Heights Public Schools. At Western
Heights, I have been fortunate to work close to a younger group of students. I
have been a part of the expanding arts and science curriculum at the high
school. The school district is in the process of renovating the high school
science wing and building a new arts and science high school building for an
emerging STEAM program. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering,
arts, and math instruction. Working with community partners, I am also involved
in promoting college and career readiness at the secondary level.
interests include the cultural geography of Oklahoma, family stories and
cultural expressions, and community building. However, through
my research in folk studies (similar to anthropology) and cultural geography, I
have studied human interconnectivity associated with occupations, which is what
initially drew my interest to the NOAA Teacher at Sea (TAS) program. In the
past, I have studied occupations associated with rural culture and how
environment and increased urbanization have effected work settings and their
relationship to identity. My research
interest aside, I am excited to learn more about the science of fishery surveys.
I think learning about the maritime career opportunities associated with NOAA
programs will be important to convey to the students I teach. Especially
because so many of my students come from economically challenged, urban
settings, and the thought of pursuing a career based on scientific research is
foreign. As a geographer, I am also excited to share with students ways they
can connect to geography as an influence on their career plans.
will be part of the third leg of the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment
Program (SEAMAP) sailing out of the NOAA Pascagoula, MS facility. SEAMAP is a
State/Federal/university program for collecting, managing, and disseminating
fishery-independent data in the southeastern US. The Gulf of Mexico survey work
began in 1981. I have read blogs and videos from NOAA TAS alum that have been
part of the similar research cruises, and I have reviewed the NOAA website
under the SEAMAP pages and NOAA Oregon II
pages. TAS alumni Angela Hung from the 2018 SEAMAP survey crew posted a great
blog on roughly what Oregon II crew
will be doing while I am sailing (see https://noaateacheratsea.blog/2018/07/03/angela-hung-dont-give-it-a-knife-june-30-2018/). However, I am still
working to understand exactly what I will be doing. Coastal culture and
scientific research of this nature is new to me. The closest experience I have
goes back to my childhood when in the 1980s my mom built a catfish hatchery and
commercial pond operation on 10 acres of farmland in southeastern Oklahoma. The
“catfish farm” as we called was only in our family for a few years. The next
closest experience I have to coastal fisheries is chartering boats for near
shore and deep sea fishing adventures on vacation. Clearly, I am in for a
lesson on the broader science of understanding and maintaining the ecology of
our domestic waterways in the US. This will be an interesting trip, for sure!
Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau
Date: June 8, 2019
Latitude: 30°30.7’ N
Longitude: 078°11.2’ W
Wave Height: 3 feet
Wind Speed: 13 knots
Wind Direction: 150
Visibility: 10 nm
Air Temperature: 26.6° C
Barometric Pressure: 1015.9
Science and Technology Log
Throughout my blogs you have been hearing an awful lot about NOAA. But what is NOAA? NOAA stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA informs the public all about environmental happenings from the deepest depths of the ocean floor all the way to the sun.
NOAA was formed in 1970 as a federal agency within the Department of Commerce. It was the result of bringing three previous federal agencies together, U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Weather Bureau, and U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. Through research, NOAA understands and predicts changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts. Through outreach and education, NOAA shares the research with end users and the public with the purpose of conserving and managing coastal and marine ecosystems and resources (NOAA, 2019. https://www.noaa.gov/our-mission-and-vision).
In order to accomplish its mission, NOAA hires a whole slew of people including Commissioned Officers, administrators, career scientists, research technicians, vessel operators, educators, etc. These people may work on land or out at sea. In this blog I will focus on some of the NOAA careers at sea.
NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps)
The NOAA Corps is a descendant of the US Coast and Geodetic survey, the oldest federal scientific agency dedicated to surveying the ocean coast. Today, officers of the NOAA Corps command NOAA’s fleet of survey and research vessels and aircraft.
In order to be eligible to apply for NOAA Corps one must have a four-year degree in a study area related to the scientific or technical mission of NOAA. There are many other eligibility requirements and you can check them out here. Once you meet the requirements, you apply to the program, and if accepted you will head to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut where you will attend a 19-week basic officer training class. Once officers graduate, they are assigned to sea duty for two years. After sea duty, officers rotate to land duty for three years. And the pattern continues as long as the officers choose to remain in the NOAA Corps.
NOAA officers fill many roles on Okeanos Explorer. Their primary role is to safely navigate the ship. All officers stand two 4-hour watches. During these watches, they are responsible for navigating and driving the ship, taking weather, and handling the ship per the requirements needed for the science mission whether it be for a series of ROV dives, mapping project, or emerging technology cruise. When not on watch, officers are responsible for collateral duties. There are many collateral duties, some of which are described below:
Safety officer: responsible for the safety drills and equipment.
Navigations officer: maintains charts, loads routes, plots routes on paper charts, updates electronic chart, and creates inbound and outbound routes for ports of call.
MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) officer: responsible for fun activities when at sea or in port. These activities have included ice cream socials, movie nights, and baseball games.
Public affairs officer: Responsible for giving ship tours to the public, maintain the ships social media presence, and performs public outreach.
There are also many officer ranks (follow the ranks of the US Navy) aboard the ship. The entry level rank is ensign or junior officer and the highest rank is admiral, allowing for 10 ranks in total. In addition to rank classes, there are varying positions. Ensigns or junior officers are recent graduates of basic officer training and on their first sea assignments. They are learning how to navigate and drive the ship, the tasks associated with standing watch, and learning about the other collateral duties. The operations officer is responsible for all mission operations while at sea and in port. They serve as the liaison between the science team and the commanding officer. If project instructions change, the Operations Officer is responsible for managing operations, understanding requests or change and then speaking with the commanding officer to approve the change. They are also responsible for all logistics when in port such as shore power, vehicles, trash, potable water, fuel, and sewer. The next highest position (second in command) is the Executive Officer who also coordinates with many of the port duties, and is supervisor of the varying departments on the ship. They are also responsible for all paperwork and pay. The highest duty on the ship is that of Commanding Officer. They are ultimately responsible for mission execution and for the safety of the ship and people aboard.
Professional mariners provide technical assistance needed to support operations while at sea. They support the ship in five different expertise areas: deck, engineering, steward, survey, and electronics. More information about the professional mariners and job posting information can be found here. Some have attended maritime school to receive training or licensure to work aboard a ship at sea. Others get their training while at sea, take required training courses, and complete onboard assessments. These mariners that work their way up to leadership positions are known as hawse-pipers (for example, the Chief Boatswain, Jerrod Hozendorf, many years ago was a General Vessel Assistant and has worked up to the Department Head of the Deck Department.)
Deck hands and able bodied seamen who attend maritime school or training where they learn how to support ship operations, including but not limited to maintenance of the ship’s exterior, maintenance and operation of the ship’s cranes (places ROV (remotely operated vehicle) or CTD (conductivity temperature depth) in the water) and winches (lowers ROV and CTD into the water), and conducts 24/7 watches to ensure the safe operation and navigation of the ship. Augmenters also rotate through the fleet, while others are permanent crew on a ship.
The engineers aboard are responsible for the water treatment, air quality systems, and machines needed to make the ship move through the water. The also oversee the hydraulics of the cranes and winches. Engineers receive a four-year engineering degree at either a maritime academy or regular college. Depending on their degree, they will come aboard at different engineer expertise levels. Engineers move into higher level positions based on their days at sea and successful completion of licensing tests.
The stewards on board are responsible for the preparation and management of the culinary services and the stateroom services such as bed linens. Tasks include meal planning, food purchasing and storage, food preparation, and oversight of the galley and mess.
Survey technicians are responsible for the operation of all survey equipment aboard the ship needed for mapping, CTD deployment, and ROV operations. Equipment includes echo sounders and meteorological and oceanographic sensors. They are also responsible for data quality control and processing, disseminating data to land data centers so it can be shared with the public, and working alongside the science team to assist with other data and equipment needs. A college degree is not required for survey technicians, but many of them have one in the fields of environmental or applied science.
Electronic technicians are responsible for all electronics aboard such as the intercoms, radios, ship’s computers and internet access, sonars, telephones, electronic navigation and radar systems, and most importantly satellite TV! Chief Electronic Technicians rotate between land and sea, typically spending 2-3 months at sea.
We saw dolphins today!!!! It was absolutely amazing. We believe them to be Atlantic Spotted Dolphins. Spotted you say? The one in the picture to the left is not spotted because it is less than one year old. They do not receive their spots until their first birthday. Spotted dolphins are very acrobatic. They enjoy jumping out of the water and surfing on the bow waves created by vessels. To date one of the best moments of the trip so far. Yay dolphins!!!!!
Did You Know?
Including all the NOAA officers and professional mariners aboard Okeanos Explorer, 12,000 people work for NOAA worldwide!
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 27 37.15 N
Longitude 091 23.21 W
Barometric Pressure 1015.69mbar
Relative Humidity 60 %
Air Temperature: 27.1 0C
Everyone is an explorer. How could you possibly live your life looking at a door and not open it? – Robert Ballard
Science/Technology and Personal Log
Hurricane Michael brought a three day delay to our departure. At first, I was a little disappointed that we were not setting sail right away but now I am glad because I had some extra time to explore Pascagoula, familiarize myself with the ship, and slowly meet the crew as they arrived spread out over several days. Plus, the additional time allowed me to start working on my career lesson plan and to prepare a video tour of the ship. I will upload the video to this blog page as soon as it is complete.
On Thursday, Oct 11th at 9:00am, we departed from Pascagoula and headed out into the Gulf of Mexico. I was amazed at how quickly we lost sight of land and at the vastness of this body of water with which I thought I was so familiar. My favorite part was watching the color of the water change from a dark teal to a deep blue.
On the “Plan of the Day” board under schedule it reads “Steam and Dream til Saturday Afternoon” and that is just what we are doing. Our path will lead us north of the Mexican border and south of Corpus Christi, Texas, where we will find our first station. Until then, in between steaming and dreaming, we are getting to know each other and learning about our roles and responsibilities.
For example, today we practiced our Fire and Abandon Ship Drills. While it is a little nerve-racking to think that something like that could actually happen, it was reassuring to see that everyone was well-trained and the operations ran smoothly.
My first lesson plan will focus on careers available through NOAA. It is amazing to see the variation in the positions and the backgrounds of the workers on this ship. Basically, on the Oregon II there are three types of employees who make up the ship’s complement.
I feel like NOAA has something to offer everyone from entry level positions that require no experience to positions requiring years of experience or advanced college degrees. The best part is that no matter where you start there is always room to advance through hard work and certification. I can’t wait to share all the opportunities with my students!
Did You Know?
Oregon II has a reverse osmosis system that uses salt water to create the freshwater needed aboard. The salt that is removed is returned back to the Gulf.
Challenge Question of the Day
(For my students: bonus points for the first person from each class period to answer it correctly):
This picture was taken from the screen of one of the navigation systems on the bridge.
What do you think is represented by each of the black squares with a dot inside?
Back at home but there’s still so much to share! I’ll wrap up my amazing experience as a Teacher at Sea by introducing three more members of the NOAA Ship Oregon II family: Alonzo Hamilton, Executive Officer Andrew Ostapenko and Commanding Officer Captain Dave Nelson. At the start of my adventure, I wrote about flexibility. The Teacher at Sea Program also stresses that cruises “require high-intensity work that demands physical adeptness, endurance, and fortitude”. These three exemplify how fortitude, the ability to endure through life’s challenges and change, brings rewards throughout life.
Fishery Biologist Alonzo Hamilton
Alonzo Hamilton has been a fishery biologist for 34 years! He likes to say that he stumbled into NOAA. He graduated from community college before enrolling at Jackson State University, a historically black university in Mississippi with a full scholarship. Actually, he was offered two scholarships, one for minority biomedical researchers to become a surgeon and the other for general studies. He arrived on campus to discuss his options in the science department. It turned out that the biomedical research scholarship was given to another recipient. On the bright side, it made the decision to accept the general studies funding much simpler. Now he had to make a choice of which field to pursue. As he explored the halls of the science building, he happened upon the office of the head of the marine science program and popped in to ask some questions. After learning about the program, he decided to apply his scholarship toward coursework in this field.
After college, he began working on a research project for the Navy which paid for a master’s degree. Soon after, President Reagan froze research funding for the Navy. Fortunately, Alonzo was tipped off that NOAA did very similar research with an active, albeit smaller budget. So began a 34 year career as a NOAA fishery biologist.
Being an African American scientist in the deep south came with challenges, but he reminded his supervisors and others around him that, “I won’t limit myself to your box”, which has carried him through a long and storied career. Today, he is happy that he gets “paid to play in the ocean”, which sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
Executive Officer (XO) Andrew Ostapenko
Most of the NOAA Corp officers you meet have a degree in science. I had the fortune of sailing with one of the few who doesn’t— the XO, LCDR Andrew Ostapenko. XO has a degree in political science from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. His goal was to become a lawyer, but after considering the job prospects and the lifestyle—”no one ever calls lawyers when they are happy”, and they never retire —he looked into some other options. In 2005 he applied for the NOAA Corps. Although he didn’t have a science degree, the general education requirements at the University of St. Paul, which included calculus, chemistry and physics, met the NOAA Corps requirements.
Since joining NOAA, LCDR Ostapenko has held a variety of assignments. In Maryland he managed budgets and projects for the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, a part of the National Weather Service that provides forecasts for the nation. He worked in small boat life cycle management as a Port engineer/small boat officer in Norfolk, Virginia, disseminating policies across the NOAA fleet.
His sailing experience began on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson which performs hydrographic surveys that map the oceans to continuously update and improve nautical charts. He was a member of the first crew on NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker, accompanying her from Wisconsin where she was built to her homeport of San Diego. Last but not least, XO has been an augmenting officer for three months on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, another fisheries survey vessel based in Alaska where high seas and storms are a part of a normal day’s work.
NOAA assignments are three years for shore tours and two years for sea tours. LCDR Ostapenko currently has about a year left with Oregon II. As XO shows, there is no danger of getting stuck in mundane office job as a NOAA Corps officer.
“Lunch is on me!” invites the captain if you arrive to the galley after him. Captain Dave Nelson is the commanding officer (CO) of NOAA Ship Oregon II, and he’s gone a long way to realize that title. This is his 10th year as the captain of Oregon II, but he’s worked onboard since 1993. He refers to himself as a “hawsepiper”, urging me to look it up on the internet. Informally, it means to have started at the bottom as a deckhand and working up to becoming a captain. Captain Nelson is a Mississippi native and grew up shrimping and fishing with his dad. After high school he went to work on commercial boats that bring supplies to oil rigs. After over a decade, he felt that he needed a plan for the future– a stable pensioned job. He serendipitously stopped into the NOAA office as he was driving by on a day that someone had just quit and there was an opening to fill. The rest is Oregon II history.
The progression as a civilian begins with being a deckhand and progressing to Chief Boatswain. It takes 750 days at sea to qualify for the first license, the 3rd Mate license administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. It then takes 1100 more days to be eligible to test for the Masters license to become a captain. In 2008 the prospective captain lived in Seattle on a NOAA ship for 12 weeks for a prep course for the Masters exam. At this point, it’d be almost 30 years since he had been a student; not only did he have to learn the material for the test, he also had to learn how to study again. Soon-to-be Captain Nelson committed seven days a week for the entire 12 weeks to study and reviewing material to pass. He knew he wanted it.
CO Nelson’s joking attitude belies the pressure of being the captain of a ship. It’s a tremendous responsibility because he is accountable for everything, particularly the safety of everyone onboard. Every decision is made or approved by the captain and he sends reports to his supervisors every day.
He is one of a few captains in the NOAA fleet who is a civilian; most NOAA Commissioned officers rotate between boats every two years. This means that he is always training the new officers joining Oregon II from ensigns like Andy Fullerton and Chelsea Parrish to XO’s like Andrew Ostapenko. It takes a lot of patience; everyone comes in with different strengths, weaknesses and of course, personalities. The key, he says, is to “treat people like people” no matter who they are.
I somehow made it through almost three weeks living on Oregon II without falling down any stairs or tripping and landing on my face over a bulkhead door. Sure enough, it was hard to fall asleep at home without the rocking of the boat, but I’m happy to have my own shower again.
I’m so excited to show my students photos of so many of the things that I cover in class, or that they ask about, such as starfish regenerating lost arms and a video of wiggling tube feet on a severed arm (I accidently broke it off). I imagine they’ll also get to see critters they haven’t imagined-arrow and calico crabs, triggerfish, batfish…
I can’t believe how much I learned in such a short time about life and work at sea, careers, seafood, NOAA and its online resources. What I’ve shared in blogs is such a small fraction of everything I’ve experienced. I’m extremely grateful to everyone on Oregon II for being so welcoming and friendly, and for being so willing to speak with me. Although there were some setbacks, I got the chance to visit the lab and meet the wonderful scientists who showed me around. It’s hard work, but everyone agrees that it’s meaningful, rewarding and exciting.
Since coming home, my colleagues have commented that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity; that thought has crossed my mind as well. But watching everyone work, this is the everyday life of NOAA crew. I can’t help but think how few decisions it might have taken, maybe only 2-3 different choices, that might have made this my regular life too.
Did You Know?
NOAA Ship Oregon II earned the Gold Medal Award for rescuing three people off the coast of Cape Canaveral on Florida’s east coast. (This is where NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is located.) In 1998 when Captain Nelson was still a deckhand, he was woken from sleep between his watches. At about 2:30pm, a small overturned boat was spotted with a man, woman, and young girl on top. Captain Nelson was a small boat driver then; he launched a boat from Oregon II to rescue them and bring them to the Coast Guard.
Captain Dave surmises that they left port in Miami almost 200 miles south and got swept up in the Gulf Stream, a strong current of water that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and flows to Canada, affecting the climate even to Europe. It can create choppy conditions that capsized their boat.
They were extraordinarily lucky; the ocean is vast so the chances of Oregon II coming by and being spotted were slim. Their boat was too small to be detected by radar; if it had been dark, they might have been run over. Those are three people who are alive today because of NOAA Ship Oregon II.
Warm weather and blue skies are making it easy to spend a lot of time out on deck, looking for wildlife! In addition to the lazy seagulls who keep hitching a ride on the ship’s trawling gear, we continue to spot dolphins, flying fish, and even a shark feeding frenzy!
Latitude: 28 24.13 N
Longitude: 83 57.32 W
Air temp: 27.7 C
Water temp: 31.3 C
Wind direction: light and variable
Wind speed: light and variable
Wave height: 0.3 meter
Sky: 50% cloud cover, no rain
Science and Technology Log
The organisms in each catch provide a snap shot of the marine life in one location in one moment in time. It’s interesting to see what we catch, but there are not many scientific conclusions that we can draw based on what we see in just 10 days. However, this survey has been completed twice per year (once in the summer and once in the fall) for over 35 years. It is looking at trends, or changes and patterns over time, that allows scientists to draw conclusions about the health and ecology of the Gulf of Mexico.
One of the major practical applications of this research is to prevent overfishing, the removal of too many individuals from a population causing that population to become unstable. Continued overfishing can lead to the extinction of a species because it leaves too few mature individuals to reproduce and replace those that are removed.
One famous example of overfishing and its consequences occurred in the late 1980’s off the Atlantic coast of Canada. Cod was a major food source and commercial industry in the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrodor. However, unregulated overfishing depleted the cod population and, between 1988 and 1992 the cod population crashed, losing more than 99% of its biomass – they were essentially gone. This destroyed the industry, putting over 40,000 people out of work. In 1992, the government finally imposed a complete ban on cod fishing in hopes that the cod population could still recover. The fishing ban is still in place today, though just last year, Canadian scientists released a report stating that there are some signs of hope!
When NOAA scientists notice overfishing occurring in US waters, they can recommend that protective regulations, or rules, are put in place to limit or even stop fishing in an area until the species has had a chance to recover.
Here are a few examples of the types of regulations that have been created in the Gulf of Mexico in response to the data from the Groundfish Survey.
Texas Shrimping Closure
To prevent overfishing of shrimp in the western Gulf of Mexico, NOAA and the Texas Department of Wildlife collaborated to implement an annual closure of state and federal waters off the coast of Texas to shrimping. This is called the “Texas Closure.”
The Texas closure runs each year from about May 15 to July 15, though the exact dates vary depending on the health of the shrimp population that year. This break allows the shrimp time to mature to an age at which they can reproduce, and to migrate out to deeper waters, which is where females spawn. It also allows the shrimp to grow to a size that is more commercially valuable.
We saw quite a few shrimp in our recent catches. Because this species is being more intensively monitored, we collected more detailed data about the individuals we caught, including the length, mass, and sex of a sample of least 200 individual shrimp (instead of a the smaller sample size of 20 that we used for most other species.)
In addition to sending out an annual notice to fisherman of the dates of the Texas Closure, NOAA also makes all of the shrimp survey data available. This can help fishermen to target the best fishing locations and work efficiently. For example, this is a plot showing the amount of brown shrimp found at various locations, created using this year’s survey data.
Red Snapper Regulation
Another species that is currently under regulation is the red snapper, which has been a popular seafood in the US since the 1840s. As fishing technology improved and recreational fishing expanded in the 1950’s, the number of red snapper captured each year increased dramatically. The shrimp industry was also expanding rapidly at this time, and juvenile red snapper were often accidentally caught and killed in shrimp trawls. As a result of these three pressures, the red snapper population began to decline dramatically.
By 1990, the spawning potential, or the number of eggs produced by the population each year, was only 2% of what it would have been naturally, without any fishing. This was far below the target spawning potential level of 26% that is necessary to sustain the species.
Limiting the number of commercial and recreational fishing licenses issued each year
Restricting the size and number of fish that a fisherman could collect on a fishing trip
Reducing the amount of time each year that fishermen could fish for red snapper
Regulating the type of fishing gear that could be used
Requiring commercial shrimp fishermen to install devices on their trawls to reduce the by-catch of juvenile red snapper
Requiring fishermen to avoid areas where red snapper spawn
Survey results in the last 5 years show that these regulations are working and that the red snapper population is growing. This is good news. However, the red snapper is not out of the woods yet. It is important to understand that, as a species with a long life span (they can live over 50 years!), it will take time for the population to regain
its normal age structure. Currently, the majority of red snapper found in the Gulf are less than 10 years old. These fish are still juveniles capable of producing only a fraction of the offspring a fully mature individual would produce. It is important to continue to closely monitor and regulate the fishing of snapper until both the number and age of individuals has been restored to a sustainable level.
We were fortunate to catch members of three different species of red snapper during my leg of the survey. I did notice that most of them were relatively small – less than 10 inches – which is consistent with the concern that the population is still disproportionately young.
As with the shrimp, we collected more detailed information about these individuals. We also removed the stomachs of a sample of snappers. As I discussed in my last blog (“What Tummies Tell Us”), scientists back on land will examine the contents of their stomachs as part of a diet study to better understand what snapper are eating. Because the invasive lionfish has a competitive relationship with red snapper, meaning that it eats many of the same foods that red snapper eat, fisheries biologists are concerned that red snapper may be forced to settle for alternative and/or reduced food sources and that this could also slow their recovery.
In addition to collecting data about the fish and other organisms we find, remember that we also use a group of instruments called a CTD to collect information about the quality of the water at each survey station. (For more about CTDs, please see my previous blog “First Day of Fishing.”)
One of the measurements the CTD takes is the amount of oxygen that is dissolved in the water. This is important because, just like you and me, fish need to take in oxygen to survive. (The difference is that you and I use our lungs to remove oxygen from the air, whereas fish use gills to remove oxygen from the water!) When dissolved oxygen concentrations in the water drop below 2 mg/L, a condition called hypoxia, most marine organisms cannot survive.
When waters become hypoxic, organisms that are able to migrate (like some fishes) will leave the area. Organisms that cannot migrate (like corals or crabs) will die from lack of oxygen. This creates large areas of ocean, called dead zones, that are devoid of typical marine life. Often anaerobic microorganisms, some of which are toxic to humans, will then grow out of control in these areas. Not only is this stressful for the marine populations, it hampers regular fishing activities, and can even pose a threat to human health.
The Gulf of Mexico is home to the largest hypoxic zone in US waters. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers and animal waste from farming activities throughout the Midwest United States all collect in the Mississippi River, which drains into the Gulf. Though nitrogen is a nutrient that organisms need in order to grow and be healthy, excess nitrogen causes an imbalance in the normal nitrogen cycle, and stimulates high levels of algae plant growth called an algal bloom. Once the algae use up the excess nitrogen, they begin to die. This causes the population of decomposers like fungi and bacteria to spike. Like most animals, these decomposers consume oxygen. Because there are more decomposers than usual, they begin to use up oxygen faster than it can be replenished.
This hypoxic zone is largest in the summer, when farming activities are at their peak. In the winter, there is less farming, and therefore less nitrogen. As the hypoxic water continues to mix with normal ocean water, the levels of oxygen begin to return to normal. (When there are tropical storms or hurricanes in the Gulf, this mixing effect is more significant, helping to reduce the impact of the hypoxia. This is often the primary cause of low-hypoxia years like 2000.) Unfortunately, the average size of the annual dead zone remains at nearly 15,000 square kilometers, three times the goal of 5,000 square kilometers.
The data collected from this year’s Groundfish Survey was used to create this map of hypoxic areas. How might this map be different if tropical storm Cindy had not occurred this summer?
The data we collect on the Groundfish survey is combined with data gathered during other NOAA missions and by other organizations, like NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and USGS (the United States Geologic Survey). By collaborating and sharing data, scientists are able to develop a more complete and detailed understanding of hypoxia levels.
In response to the levels of hypoxia seen in the data, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required Midwestern states to develop and implement plans that will allow them to make greater progress in reducing the nutrient pollution that flows into the Mississippi. Specifically, the EPA wants states to do things like:
Identify areas of land that have the largest impact on pollution in the Mississippi
Set caps on how much nitrogen and other nutrients can be used in these areas
Develop new agricultural practices and technologies that will reduce the amount of these pollutants that are used or that will flow into the water
Ensure that the permitting process that states use to grant permission to use potential pollutants is effective at limiting pollutants to reasonable levels
Develop a plan for monitoring how much nutrient pollution is being released into waters
These EPA regulations were only recently implemented, so it is still unclear what, if any, impact they will have on the hypoxic zone in the Gulf. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the data from the Groundfish survey in coming years to help answer that question!
In the mean time, though, things still seem to be moving in the wrong direction. In fact, NOAA just announced that this summer’s dead zone is the largest ever recorded.
Getting a PhD in your chosen field of science is an awesome accomplishment and is necessary if your goal is to design and carry out your own research projects. However, I’ve noticed that the PhD is often presented to students as the only path into a career in science. I think this is unfortunate, since this often discourages students who know they do not want to pursue a graduate degree from entering the field.
I’ve noticed that most of the scientists I’ve met while on board the Oregon II and in the NOAA lab at Pascagoula do not hold PhDs, but are still deeply involved in field work, lab work, and data analysis every day.
I asked Andre DeBose, a senior NOAA fishery biologist and the Field Party Chief for this mission, if he feels a PhD is necessary for those interested in fishery biology. Andre agreed that a graduate degree is not necessary, but he cautioned that it is a very competitive field and that education is one way to set yourself apart – “if you have the opportunity to get an advanced degree, take the opportunity.”
However, he continued, “the MOST important thing you can do is take the opportunity to do internships, volunteering, and fellowships. Those open a lot of doors for you in the world of biology.” Andre himself holds a bachelors degree in biology, but it was his years of experience working in aquaculture and as a contractor with NOAA that were most helpful in paving the way to the permanent position he holds today. “When I graduated from college, I took a low-paying job in aquaculture, just to start learning everything I could about fish. When contract [or short-term] positions became available at the NOAA lab, I applied and tried to make myself as useful as possible. It took time and I had to be really persistent – I would literally call the lab all the time and asked if they had anything they needed help with – but when a full time position finally became available, everyone knew who I was and knew that I had the right skills for the job.”
Now, Andre tries to help others navigate the tricky career path into marine biology. In addition to his responsibilities as a biologist, he is also the Outreach and Education Coordinator for the NOAA lab, which allows him to mentors all of interns (and Teachers at Sea like me!) and to talk with students at schools in the community.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in marine biology, it’s never to early to start looking for some of those volunteer opportunities! There are lots of scientists out there like Andre who are excited to share their knowledge and experience.
Did You Know?
In the Gulf of Mexico, each state has the authority to regulate the waters that are within about 9 miles of the coast. (This includes making rules about fishing.) Beyond that, the federal government, with the help of federal agencies like NOAA, make the rules!
Questions to Consider:
Research: This article discussed the political side of the Snapper situation. Research other news articles about this issue to ensure that you have a balanced perspective.
We are off and running in our quest to track Alaskan pollock. The first thing I realized was the complexity of fishing operations. There are so many parts to a successful operation and one of my favorite components is all the maps and navigation.
Science and Technology Log: Using Sound to See
Once the ship is navigated to the first transect line then the scientific research begins. A down-looking echo sounder system located in the centerboard of the ship has five transducers (18, 38, 70, 120 and 200 kHz) that emit short pulses of sound. This means that energy, in the form of sound waves, is being sent out from the bottom of the ship. When sound waves encounter a change in sound speed, density, or a combination of both, some of the energy is scattered (reflected) back to the ship. The amount of sound scattered by an object in the water column is a function of its physical characteristics and the frequency of the sound. In animals, important physical characteristics that affect the amount of scattering include the presence of a swim bladder (a bubble!), bone structure, and size. Various animal types with different morphological characteristic will scatter different amounts of sound as a function of frequency, which scientists can use to aid their interpretation of the observations. The NOAA scientists know, through research, that krill scatter much more energy at 120 kHz and 200 kHz than at 18 kHz, but pollock scatter similar amounts of energy at all of the frequencies used in the survey. Ultimately, the five frequencies are used to support decisions about the types of animals that are scattering the sound in the water column, but the scientist use only the 38 kHz transducer data to derive estimates of fish abundance.
All of the scatter produced by the pollock, and other animals in the water column, is processed by the ship’s computers to produce an echogram. Each column in the echogram is a view of the spatial distribution of animals under the ship at that time. By moving around the survey area and “stacking” many observations a spatial view of the biomass distribution is created. NOAA scientists in the acoustics lab analyze the echogram not only to determine what is in the water column, but also where to perform physical samples (trawls). The ship then navigates to that location and the sampling process begins.
Meet the Crew
Before starting my Teacher at Sea adventure I had no idea that there was a career called ocean acoustics engineer. Everyday I have been interacting with NOAA Acoustics Engineer Chris Bassett and University of New Hampshire graduate student Alexandra Padilla to find out why they chose this career. One thing I notice is that they build really cool instruments and they are teaching me a lot about how we study the ocean using sound.
Interview with Christopher Bassett
Ocean Acoustics Engineer
Normal Job Duties
I study the use of passive and active acoustics in marine environments.
What is your current position on Oscar Dyson?
A combination of management of ET/IT support for survey operations and special research projects at night.
How long have you been working on Oscar Dyson?
This is my third field season. My first cruise was the summer of 2015.
Why the ocean? What made you choose a career at sea?
A series of fortunate and unfortunate events.
When I started graduate school I wanted to transition to working as an engineer in renewable energy. The economic conditions in 2008 resulted in the loss of funding for the project I was planning to work on. Instead I agreed to perform a short study on underwater sound in support of a tidal energy project in Puget Sound, WA. I fell in love with the work and have been studying acoustical oceanography ever since.
What is your favorite thing about going to sea on Oscar Dyson?
Going to sea in Alaska. It’s beautiful.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science or an ocean career?
Not until I started doing ocean research. Prior to that the idea had never occurred to me. I didn’t see an ocean for the first time until I was in my teens so the idea of working in ocean science was completely foreign. I did, however, know I was interested in science and engineering from a relatively early age. Nonetheless, pursuing a career in science never occurred to me until I first worked in the field and discovered my passion for the subject.
What are some of the challenges with your job?
Working with data sets (biological or physical) obtained in the field. Working with data obtained at sea from uncooperative sources is not easy. My job also requires a variety of skills (e.g., engineering, math, coding), a willingness to learn about biology, and requires a lot of travel. Expanding my knowledge across these fields is a constant challenge.
What are some of the rewards with your job?
I learn something interesting every day.
Describe a memorable moment at sea.
Sunset at the Islands of Four Mountains while one of the volcanoes was smoking. Little more can be said. It was a beautiful day!
Interview with Alexandra Padilla
Ocean Acoustics Engineer
Ocean Engineering PhD Student – and Sian Proctor’s awesome roommate aboard Oscar Dyson.
Normal Job Duties
I am a PhD graduate student. I usually spend my time split between courses and research. I am about to start my third year at University of New Hampshire and I will be focused mostly on taking classes, passing my qualifiers, and doing research.
What is your current position on Oscar Dyson?
I am an invited scientist.
How long have you been working on Oscar Dyson?
This is my first time aboard the Oscar Dyson! Actually, it is the first time I have ever been on a scientific cruise.
Why the ocean? What made you choose a career at sea?
Oh Boy… That is a long story actually. Life.
What is your favorite thing about going to sea on Oscar Dyson?
My favorite thing about going to sea is learning from all of the other people that are on Oscar Dyson – from NOAA Corps officers, crew member and fellow scientist.
Why is your work (or research) important?
My research is focused on observing methane seeps in the water column and quantifying the flux of methane within the water column and at the air-sea interface. This research is important for understanding how methane release in the ocean contributes to climate change.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science or an ocean career?
I knew I wanted to be an engineer since elementary school, but I only realized that I wanted to be an ocean engineer during my third year as an undergrad.
What part of your job with NOAA (or contracted to NOAA) did you least expect to be doing?
What are some of the challenges with your job?
Things don’t always work out the way you want them to and sometimes you don’t know how to fix them.
What are some of the rewards with your job?
Doing unique research. Also, getting that sense of satisfaction when you fix that one problem that you thought you couldn’t do.
Describe a memorable moment at sea.
I have yet to have a specific memorable moment at sea but I do have a memorable feeling every time I look at the horizon when on the ship. It feels like freedom.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I am enjoying being at sea. I think a big reason why is the smooth ride. The sea has been calm, the weather mild, and the sunshine plentiful. The scenery within the Shelikof Strait, particularly along Katmai National Park, has been stunningly beautiful. A perk of the early morning shift is seeing the sunrise. Take a look at the weather report above for the sunrise and sunset times. You’ll notice that the amount of darkness is minimal this time of year.
The hardest part of the journey so far has been my schedule. We work 12 hour days and my shift is 4 am to 4 pm. Yep, 4 am! I am not a morning person – but I am also not a late night person. So given the choice between getting up or going to bed at 4 am – I choose to wake up with the help of coffee – coffee – coffee.
The NOAA crew are friendly, informative, and have made my adjustment to life at sea easy breezy. Every day I learn something new. The NOAA Chief Scientist is Taina Honkalehto. I was thrilled to learn that she’d be my mentor for the Teacher at Sea program because I am an advocate for women in science. I am also surrounded by other crew members, both men and women, who have taken time to teach, advise, and guide me every day. I will be trying to highlight as many of them as possible in my blog posts.
One thing I am learning is that there are so many different careers dealing with ocean science. Here is a great resources If you have students who are interested in a career in ocean or marine sciences.
There are so many things you can learn about sound and the sea. The Discovery of Sound in the Sea website is chuck full of information and educational resources.
Did You Know?
Did you know that there is a layer in the ocean where sound gets trapped and can travel across the entire basin. It is called the SOFAR Channel. Click this link to learn more: NOAA SOFAR Channel
Mission: Pelagic Juvenile Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean off the California Coast
Date: June 12, 2017
As I end my journey on the Reuben Lakser, I wanted to prepare a post about the people on the ship. As in any organization, there are a lot of different people and personalities on board. I interviewed 15 different people and, looking back, I am particularly amazed by how much “Science” drives the ship. The Chief Scientist is involved in most of the decisions regarding course corrections and the logistics. It is really promising as a science teacher — NOAA offers a place for those interested in science to enjoy many different careers.
The people working on the ship can be grouped into broad categories. I have mentioned the science crew, but there are also fishermen, deck crew, engineers, stewards and, of course, the ship’s officers. If you like to cook, there are positions for you here. Same thing if you want to be an electrician or mechanic. Each of those positions has different responsibilities and qualifications. For example, the engineers need proper licenses to work on specific vessels. All of the positions require ship specific training. For some, working on the ship is almost a second career, having worked in the private sector or the Navy previously. Kim Belveal, the Chief Electrical Technician followed this path as did Engineer Rob Piquion. Working with NOAA provides them with a decent wage and a chance to travel and see new places. For young people looking to work on a ship, these are great jobs to examine that combine different interests together.
All of the officers on the ships are members of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. They have ranks, titles and traditions just like the Navy and Coast Guard. Commander (CDR) Kurt Dreflak, the Commanding Officer, or CO and Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Justin Keesee, the Executive Officer, or XO, are in charge of everything that happens on the Reuben Lasker. To reach these positions, someone must work hard and be promoted through the NOAA Corps ranks. They make the ultimate decisions in terms of personnel, ordering, navigation, etc. The XO acts as most people think a First Mate would work. What impressed me was how they responded when I asked about why they work for NOAA and to describe their favorite moment at sea. They both responded the same way: NOAA Corps provides a chance to combine science and service – a “Jacques Cousteau meets the Navy” situation. They also shared a similar thought when I asked them about their favorite moments at sea – they both reflected about reaching the “Aha” moment when training their officers. This is definitely something I can relate to as a teacher.
Other NOAA Corps officers have different responsibilities, such as the OPS or Operations Officer, and take shifts on the bridge and on the deck, driving the ship, coordinating trawls and keeping the ship running smoothly in general. Most of the NOAA Corps has a background in marine science, having at least a degree in some science or marine discipline. When I asked them why they decided to work for NOAA, the common response was that it allows them to serve their country and contribute to science. Again, this is an awesome thing for a science teacher to hear!
To emphasize how important science is to the organization, two NOAA Corps officers, LTJG Cherisa Friedlander and LTJG Ryan Belcher, are members of the science crew during this leg of the Juvenile Rockfish Survey. They worked with us in the Science Lab, and did not have the same responsibilities associated with the ship’s operations.
Cherisa provided a lot of background about the NOAA Corp and the Reuben Lasker in particular. I am including her full interview here:
What is your name?
Lieutenant Junior Grade Cherisa Friedlander
What is your title or position?
NOAA Corps Officer/ Operations Officer for the Fisheries Ecology Division in Santa Cruz,CA
What is your role on the ship?
I used to be the junior officer on board, now I am sailing as a scientist for the lab. It is kind of cool to have sailed on the ship in both roles! They are very different.
How long have you been working on the Reuben Lasker?
I worked on board from 2013-2014
Why did you choose to work on the Lasker?
I originally listed the RL as one if the ships I wanted after basic training in 2012 because it was going to be the newest ship in the fleet. It was very exciting to be a part of bringing a new ship online. I got to see it be built from the inside out and helped order and organize all of the original supplies. The first crew of a ship are called the plankowner crew of the ship, and it stems from olden times when shipbuilders would sleep on the same plank on the deck while they were building the ship. It is a big task.
What is your favorite moment on the ship or at sea?
I was the first Junior Officer the ship ever had and got to plan and be on board for the transit through the Panama Canal!
Why do you work for NOAA?
I love my job! I come from a service family, so I love the service lifestyle the NOAA Corps offers while still incorporating science and service. I like that every few years I get to see a new place and do a new job. Next I head to Antarctica!
If a young person was interested in doing your job someday, what advice would you give them?
Explore lots of options for careers while you are young. Volunteer, do internships, take courses, and find out what interests you. The more activities you participate in, the more well rounded you are and it allows you to find a job you will love doing. It is also appealing to employers to see someone who has been proactive about learning new ideas and skills.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work or experiences at sea?
Working at sea can certainly be challenging. I can get very seasick sometimes which makes for a very unhappy time at sea. It can also be hard to be away from family and friends for so long, so I make sure to spend quality time with those people when I am on land. 🙂
The remainder of the science crew is at different points in their careers and have followed different paths to be a part of this cruise. Students motivated in science can take something from these stories, I hope, and someday join a field crew like this.
Chief Scientist Keith Sakuma has been part of the Rockfish Survey since 1989. He started as a student and has worked his way up from there. Various ships have run the survey in the past, but the Reuben Lasker, as the most state-of-the-art ship in the fleet, looks to be its home for the near future.
Thomas Adams is an undergraduate student from Humboldt State University. He has kept his eyes open and taken advantage of opportunities as they come up. He has been part of the survey for a few years already and looks to continue his work through a Master’s degree program.
Maya Drzewicki is an undergrad student from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. She was named as a Hollings Scholar -in her words this is: “a 2 year academic scholarship and paid summer internship for college students interested in pursuing oceanic or atmospheric sciences. I am a marine biology major and through this scholarship program I have learned so much about ocean sciences and different careers.”
Rachel Zuercher is a PhD student associated with the University of California- Santa Cruz. She joined the survey in part because the group has provided her samples in the past that she has used for her research.
Mike Force is a professional birdwatcher who was able to make a career out of something he loves to do. He has been all over the globe, from Antarctica to the South Pacific helping to identify birds. As a freelance contractor, he goes where he is needed. His favorite time at sea was also a common theme I came across- there is always a chance to see something unique, no matter how long you have been on ship.
Mike Force at his perch on the Flying Bridge
Ken Baltz is an oceanographer who ran the daytime operations on the ship. He was associated with NOAA Fisheries Santa Cruz lab – Groundfish Analysis Team. As advice to young people looking to get in the field, he suggests they make sure that they can handle the life on the ship. This was a common theme many people spoke to – life on a ship is not always great. Seas get rough, tours take time and you are working with the same group of people for a long time. Before making a career of life on a ship, make sure it suits you!
Sunday, June 11th
I experienced a truly magical moment on the Flying Bridge this evening as we transited off the coast near Santa Barbara. For a good 20 minutes, we were surrounded by a feeding frenzy of birds, dolphins, sea lions and humpback whales. It was awesome! The video below is just a snippet from the event and it does not do it justice. It was amazing!
Monday, June 12th
Sad to say this is my last night on the ship. We had plans to do complete 4 trawls, but we had a family of dolphins swimming in our wake during the Marine Mammal Watch. We had to cancel that station. After we wrapped up, it was clean up time and we worked through the night. The ship will arrive in San Diego early tomorrow morning.
Thank you NOAA and the crew of the Reuben Lasker for an awesome experience!!!
Mission: WHOI Hawaii Ocean Timeseries Station (WHOTS)
Geographical Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean, north of Hawaii
Date: June 29th, 2016
Weather Data from the Bridge
(June 29th, 2016 at 12:00 pm)
Wind Speed: 12 knots
Temperature: 26.3 C
Barometric Pressure: 1017.5 mb
Science and Technology Log
When an anchor is dropped, forces in the ocean will cause this massive object to drift as it falls. Last year, after the anchor of mooring 12 was dropped, an acoustic message was sent to the release mechanism on the anchor to locate it. This was repeated in three locations so that the location of the anchor could be triangulated much like how an earthquake epicenter is found. This was repeated this year for mooring 13 so next year, they will know where it is. From where we dropped the anchor to where it fell, was a horizontal distance of 3oo meters. The ocean moved the 9300 pound anchor 300 meters. What a force!
The next morning as the ship was in position, another acoustic message was sent that triggered the release of the glass floats from the anchor. Not surprisingly, the floats took nearly an hour to travel up the nearly 3 miles to the surface.
Once the floats were located at the surface, a small boat was deployed to secure the end of the mooring to the Hi’ialakai. The glass floats were loaded onto the ship. 17 floats that had imploded when they were deployed last year. Listen to imploding floats recorded by the hydrophone. Implosion.
Next, came the lengthy retrieval of the line (3000+ meters). A capstan to apply force to the line was used as the research associates and team arranged the line in the shipping boxes. The colmega and nylon retrieval lasted about 3 hours.
Once the wire portion of the mooring was reached, sensors were removed as they rose and stored. Finally the mooring was released, leaving the buoy with about 40 meters of line with sensors attached and hanging below.
The NOAA officer on the bridge maneuvered the ship close enough to the buoy so that it could be secured to the ship and eventually lifted by the crane and placed on deck. This was followed by the retrieval of the last sensors.
The following day required cleaning sensors to remove biofoul. And the buoy was dismantled for shipment back to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Mooring removal was accomplished in seas with 5-6 feet swells at times. From my vantage point, everything seemed to go well in the recovery process. This is not always the case. Imagine what would happen, if the buoy separated from the rest of the mooring before releasing the floats and the mooring is laying on the sea floor? What would happen if the float release was not triggered and you have a mooring attached to the 8000+ pound anchor? There are plans for when these events occur. In both cases, a cable with a hook (or many hooks) is snaked down to try and grab the mooring line and bring it to the surface.
Now that the mooring has been recovered, the science team continues to collect data from the CTD (conductivity/temperature/depth) casts. By the end of tomorrow, the CTDs would have collected data for approximately 25 hours. The data from the CTDs will enable the alignment of the two moorings.
The WHOTS (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Hawaii Ocean Time Series Site) mooring project is led by is led by two scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Al Plueddeman and Robert Weller. Both scientists have been involved with the project since 2004. Plueddeman led this year’s operations and next year it will be Weller. Plueddeman recorded detailed notes of the operation that helped me fill in some blanks in my notes. He answered my questions. I am thankful to have been included in this project and am grateful for this experience and excited to share with my students back in Eugene, Oregon.
The long term observations (air-sea fluxes) collected by the moorings at Station Aloha will be used to better understand climate variability. WHOTS is funded by NOAA and NSF and is a joint venture with University of Hawaii. I will definitely be including real time and archived data from WHOTS in Environmental Science.
I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to talk with the crew of the Hi’ialakai. There were many pathways taken to get to this point of being aboard this ship. I learned about schools and programs that I had never even heard about. My students will learn from this adventure of mine, that there are programs that can lead them to successful oceanic careers.
I sailed with Brian Kibler in 2013 aboard the Oscar Dysonup in the Gulf of Alaska. He completed a two year program at Seattle Maritime Academy where he became credentialed to be an Able Bodied Seaman. After a year as an intern aboard the Oscar Dyson, he was hired. A few years ago he transferred to the Hi’ialakai and has now been with NOAA for 5 years. On board, he is responsible for rigging, watch and other tasks that arise. Brian was one of the stars of the video I made called Sharks on Deck. Watch it here.
Tyler Matta has been sailing with NOAA for nearly a year. He sought a hands-on engineering program and enrolled at Cal Maritime (Forbes ranked the school high due to the 95% job placement) and earned a degree in maritime engineering and was licensed as an engineer. After sailing to the South Pacific on a 500 ft ship, he was hooked. He was hired by NOAA at a job fair as a 3rd engineer and soon will have enough sea days to move to 2nd engineer.
There are 6 NOAA Corps members on the Hi’ialakai. They all went through an approximately 5 month training program at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT. To apply, a candidate should have a 4 year degree in a NOAA related field such as science, math or engineering. Our commanding officer, Liz Kretovic, attended Massachusetts Maritime Academy and majored in marine safety and environmental protection. Other officers graduated with degrees in marine science, marine biology, and environmental studies.
Ensign (ENS) Nikki Chappelle is new to the NOAA Corps. In fact, this is her first cruise aboard the Hi’ialakai and second with NOAA. She is shadowing ENS Bryan Stephan for on the job training. She spent most of her schooling just south of where I teach. I am hoping that when she visits her family in Cottage Grove, Oregon that she might make a stop at my school to talk to my students. She graduated from Oregon State University with degrees in zoology and communication. In the past she was a wildfire fighter, a circus worker (caring for the elephants) and a diver at Sea World.
All of the officers have 2 four hour shifts a day on the bridge. For example ENS Chappelle’s shifts are 8am to 12pm and 8pm to 12am. The responsibilities of the officers include navigating the ship, recording meteorological information, overseeing safety. Officers have other tasks to complete when not on the bridge such as correcting navigational maps or safety and damage control. ENS Stephan manages the store on board as a collateral assignment. After officers finish training they are sent to sea for 2-3 years (usually 2) and then rotate to land for 3 years and then back to sea. NOAA Officers see the world while at sea as they support ocean and atmospheric science research.
Electronics technician (ET) seem to be in short supply with NOAA. There are lots of job opportunities. According to Larry Wooten (from Newport’s Marine Operation Center of the Pacific), NOAA has hired 7 ETs since November. Frank Russo III is sailing with NOAA for the first time as an ET. But this is definitely not his first time at sea. He spent 24 years in the navy, 10 at Military Sealift Command supporting naval assets and marines around the world. His responsibilities on the Hi’ialakai include maintaining navigational equipment on the bridge, making sure the radio, radar and NAVTEX (for weather alerts) are functioning properly and maintaining the server so that the scientists have computer access.
I have met so many interesting people on the Hi’ialakai. I appreciate everyone who took the time to chat with me about their careers or anything else. I wish I had more time so that I could get to know more of the Hi’ialakai crew. Thanks. Special thanks to our XO Amanda Goeller and Senior Scientist Al Plueddeman for reviewing my blog posts. And for letting me tag along.
Did You Know?
The buoy at the top of the mooring becomes a popular hang out for organisms in the area. As we approached mooring 12, there were several red-footed boobies standing their ground. There were also plenty of barnacles and other organisms that are planktonic in some stage of their lives. Fishing line is strung across the center of the buoy to discourage visitors but some still use the buoy as a rest stop. The accumulation of organism that can lead to corrosion and malfunction of the equipment is biofoul.
One More Thing
South Eugene biology teacher Christina Drumm (who’s husband was Ensign Chappelle’s high school math teacher) wanted to see pictures of the food. So here it is. Love and Happiness.
NOAA Teacher at Sea June Teisan Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II May 1 – 15, 2015
Mission: SEAMAP Plankton Study Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico Date: Sunday, May 10, 2015
Weather Data from the Bridge: 1600 hours ; Partly Cloudy; wind 6 knots; air temp 27.5C; water temp 28.4C; wave height 3 ft
Science and Technology Log:
It’s been fascinating to work beside the fisheries science staff here on the Oregon II. Moving through the station protocols – deploying nets and sampling devices, processing, preserving, and cataloging the ichthyoplankton samples, analyzing the chemistry of water samples – I have learned so much and enjoyed every minute.
I am always curious about why people choose the careers they do. At what point did a door open, who pointed the way, when did the proverbial light bulb go on? So I asked a few members of our science team the when, how, and why behind their chosen career.
Path to a STEM Career: When his asthma closed the door to a career in the Air Force, Alonzo reluctantly headed to community college instead. From his stellar work at Prentiss Normal and Industrial Institute in Prentiss, Mississippi, he earned a full ride to Jackson State University.
When Alonzo showed up for registration at JSU the first day, the attendant at registration told Alonzo that he had not just one, but two academic scholarships! He needed to make a choice between the scholarship he knew he had and an additional biomedical research assistant scholarship. He rushed over to speak with the director of the biomed program, only to be told that the scholarship had been given away without consulting Alonzo. Angry and disappointed, Alonzo stormed out down the hall and literally ‘turned a corner’ into the first door he saw: The Office of Marine Sciences. He asked the director of that division to explain her program to him, which she did and encouraged him to join. As they say, the rest is history. Alonzo finished his bachelors degree in biology, and went on to Master in Marine and Environmental Sciences. Since 1984, Alonzo has worked with NOAA in the Trawl Survey Unit of NOAA Fisheries in Pascagoula.
Best Part of His Job: He enjoys the new discoveries he sees out on the water.
Favorite Teacher: 6th grade Ms. MaeDora Frelix – “Because she was pretty, and smart, and she said I was smart, so that topped it off”
Path to a STEM Career: Taniya always liked science and in high school took the medical program vocational classes which involved clinicals in the hospital and shadowing doctors. However, after she passed out during rounds one day, Taniya decided she didn’t want to be a nurse. She did, however, find a new science interest; she job-shadowed her aunt who was working at Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, Mississippi and loved it. She attended Mississippi Valley State University in Ittabena, MS with a biology major and a minor in chemistry. She completed her bachelors in May 2010 and is now working in marine sciences, with part of her work assisting with research on NOAA vessels.
Best Part of Her Job: Being out on the water, the fact that it is always something different.
Favorite Teacher: Mrs. S. Williams, 7th grade science “because she opened my eyes to a new world, it wasn’t regular textbook material. She did nature walks, integrating arts – keeping science exciting and interesting.”
Path to a STEM Career: Denice always liked science, and on vacation trips to the beach as a kid she decided she wanted to do marine biology. She selected a university that had marine bio as undergraduate major. Millersville University in Pennsylvania was part of the Wallops Island Marine Science Consortium of Virginia so Denice could take summer marine science classes in Virginia, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology. She then earned her Masters’ in Marine Biology from the Florida Institute of Technology. Denice spent 7.5 months working for the state of Florida on their Red Drum Stock Enhancement Program (red drum fish Sciaenops ocellatus) then moved to NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Mississippi Laboratories in 1993.
Best Part of Her Job: “Variety! It’s never the same thing twice, and I can go between field work and lab work so that keeps everything interesting.”
Favorite Teacher: Denice had so many wonderful teachers she can’t pick just one.
The classroom shout out for this blog goes to students with Ms. Alexandra Beels, Grosse Pointe South High School in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and Mr. Craig Trebesh, SOAR Academy in Sheridan, Colorado.
Last night and afternoon was by far the craziest we’ve seen on the Oscar Dyson. The winds were up to 35 knots (about 40 miles an hour). The waves were averaging 12 feet in height, and sometimes reaching 15-18 feet in height. Right now I’m sitting on the bridge and waves are around 8 feet. With every rise the horizon disappears and I’m looking up at stark grey clouds. With every drop the window fills with views of the sea, with the horizon appearing just below the top of the window frames.
Ensign Gilman, a member of NOAA Corps, explains to me how the same thing that makes the Bering Sea good for fish makes things rough for fishermen.
“This part of the Bering Sea is shallow compared to the open ocean. That makes the water easier for the wind to pick up and create waves. When strong winds come off Russia and Alaska, it kicks up a lot of wave action,” Ensign Gilman says.
“It’s not so much about the swells (wave height),” he continues. “It’s about the steepness of the wave, and how much time you have to recover from the last wave.” He starts counting between the waves… “one… two… three… three seconds between wave heights… that’s a pretty high frequency. With no time to recover, the ship can get rocked around pretty rough.”
Rough is right! Last night I got shook around like the last jelly bean in the jar. I seriously considered finding some rope to tie myself into my bunk. There were moments when it seemed an angry giraffe was jumping on my bunk. I may or may not have shouted angrily at Sir Isaac Newton that night.
Which brings us to Sea Sickness.
Lt. Paul Hoffman, a Physician’s Assistant with the U.S. Public Health Service, explains how sea sickness works.
“The inner ears are made up of tubes that allow us to sense motion in three ways,” Hoffman explains. “Forward/back, left/right, and up/down. While that’s the main way our brain tells us where we are, we use other senses as well.” He goes on to explain that every point of contact… feet and hands, especially, tell the brain more information about where we are in the world.
“But another, very important piece, are your eyes. Your eyes are a way to confirm where you are in the world. Sea Sickness tends to happen when your ears are experiencing motion that your eyes can’t confirm,” Hoffman says.
For example, when you’re getting bounced around in your cabin (room), but nothing around you APPEARS to be moving (walls, chair, desk, etc) your brain, essentially, freaks out. It’s not connected to anything rational. It’s not enough to say “Duhh, brain, I’m on a boat. Of course this happens.” It happens in a part of the brain that’s not controlled by conscious thought. You can’t, as far as I can tell, think your way out of it.
Hoffman goes on to explain a very simple solution: Go look at the sea.
“When you get out on deck, the motion of the boat doesn’t stop, but your eyes can look at the horizon… they can confirm what your ears have been trying to tell you… that you really are going up and down. And while it won’t stop the boat from bouncing you around, your stomach will probably feel a lot better,” Hoffman says.
And he’s right. Being up on the bridge… watching the Oscar Dyson plow into those stout waves… my brain has settled into things. The world is back to normal. Well, as normal as things can get on a ship more than a third of the way around the world, that is.
Let’s meet a few of the good folks on the Oscar Dyson.
NOAA Crew Member Alyssa Pourmonir
Job Title: Survey Technician
Responsibilities on the Dyson: “I’m a liaison between crew and scientists, work with scientists in the wet lab, put sensors onto the trawling nets, focus on safety, maintaining all scientific data and equipment on board.” A liaison is someone who connects two people or groups of people.
Education Level Required: “A Bachelors degree in the sciences.” Alyssa has a BS in Marine and Environmental Science from SUNY Maritime with minors in oceanography and meteorology.
Job or career you’ve had before this: “I was a life guard/swim instructor in high school, then I was in the Coast Guard for three years. Life guarding is the BEST job in high school!”
Goal: “I strive to bring about positive change in the world through science.”
Weirdest thing you ever took out of the Sea: “Lump Sucker: They have big flappy eyebrows… they kinda look like a bowling ball.”
Dirtiest job you’ve ever had to do on a ship: “Sexing the fish (by cutting them open and looking at the fish’s gonads… sometimes they explode!) is pretty gross, but cleaning the PCO2 filter is nasty. There are these marine organisms that get in there and cling to the filter and you have to push them off with your hands… they get all slimy!”
NOAA Rotating Technician Ricardo Guevara
Job Title: Electronics Technician
Responsibilities on the Dyson: “I maintain and upkeep most of the low voltage electronics on the ship, like computer networking, radio, television systems, sensors, navigation systems. All the equipment that can “talk,” that can communicate with other devices, I take care of that.”
Education level Required: High school diploma and experience. “I have a high school diploma and some college. The majority of my knowledge comes from experience… 23 years in the military.”
Job or career you’ve had before this: “I was a telecommunications specialist with the United States Air Force… I managed encryption systems and associated keymat for secure communications.” This means he worked with secret codes.
Trickiest problem you’ve solved for NOAA: “There was a science station way out on the outer edge of the Hawaiian Islands that was running their internet off of dial-up via satellite phone when the whole thing shut down on them… ‘Blue Screen of Death’ style. We couldn’t just swap out the computer because of all the sensitive information on it. I figured out how to repair the disk without tearing the machine apart. Folks were extremely happy with the result… it was very important to the scientists’ work.”
What are you working on now? “I’m migrating most of the ship’s computers from windows xp to Windows 7. I’m also troubleshooting the DirecTV system. The problem with DirecTV is that the Multi-Switch for the receivers isn’t communicating directly with the satellite. Our antenna sees the satellite, but the satellite cannot ‘shake hands’ with our receiver system.” And that means no Red Sox games on TV! Having entertainment available for the crew is important when you’re out to sea for two to three weeks at a time!
What’s a challenging part of your job on the Dyson? “I don’t like it, but I do it when I have to… sometimes in this job you have to work pretty high up. Sometimes I have to climb the ship’s mast for antenna and wind sensor maintenance. It’s windy up there… and eagles aren’t afraid of you up there. That’s their place!”
Lt. Paul Hoffman
Job Title: Physician Assistant (or P.A.) with the U.S. Public Health Service
Responsibilities on the Dyson: He’s effectively the ship’s doctor. “Whenever a NOAA ship travels outside 200 miles of the U.S. coast, they need to be able to provide an increased level of medical care. That’s what I do,” says Hoffman.
Education required for this career: “Usually a Masters degree from a Physician’s Assistant school with certification.”
Job or career you’ve had before this: “Ten and a half years in the U.S. Army, I started off as an EMT. Then I went on to LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) school, and then blessed with a chance to go on to PA school. I served in Iraq in 2007-2008, then returned for 2010-2011.”
Most satisfying thing you’ve seen or done in your career: “Knowing that you personally had an impact on somebody’s life… keeping somebody alive. We stabilized one of our soldiers and then had a helicopter evac (evacuation) under adverse situations. Situations like that are what make being a PA worthwhile.”
Could you explain what the Public Health Service is for folks that might not be familiar with it?
“The Public Health Service is one of the seven branches of the U.S. Military. It’s a non-weaponized, non-combative, all-officer corps that falls under the Department of Health and Human Services. We’re entirely medical related. Primary deployments (when they get sent into action) are related to national emergency situations… hurricanes, earth quakes… anywhere where state and local resources are overrun… they can request additional resources… that’s where we step in. Hurricane Katrina, the Earthquake in Haiti… a lot of officers saw deployment there. Personally, I’ve been employed in Indian Health Services in California and NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center (AOC)… they’re the hurricane hunters,” Hoffman concludes.
Kids, when you’ve been around Lt. Hoffman for a while, you realize “adverse conditions” to him are a little tougher than a traffic jam or missing a homework assignment. I’ve decided to call him, and the rest of the Public Health Service, “The Batman of Health Care.” When somebody lights up the Bat Signal, they’re there to help people feel better.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Yaara Crane Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson June 22 — July 3, 2013
Mission: Hydrographic Survey Geographical area of cruise: Mid-Atlantic Date: Monday, July 1, 2013
Latitude: 38.81°N Longitude: 75.05°W
Weather Data from Bridge: Wind Speed: 21.77knots
Surface Water Temperature: 22.16°C
Air Temperature: 22.80°C
Relative Humidity: 98.00%
Barometric Pressure: 1012.61mb
Scientific Careers Log
During my time aboard the Thomas Jefferson, I have heard dozens of personal stories from individuals that come from all walks of life. I spent the past few days sitting down with a variety of these people to interview them about how they ended up a critical part of this ship. The following is just a short summary of my long conversations with each of these people. I found so much to write about, that today’s log will be about scientific careers, and tomorrow’s will focus on the non-scientific careers.
Of course, I had to begin my interviews with the man in charge: Commander Lawrence Krepp. CDR Krepp has been a NOAA Corps officer for over 20 years, and CO of the TJ since April of 2011. He particularly enjoys working on hydrographic ships, because they are the only ones in the fleet in which the CO is also the Chief Scientist. His background includes a degree in marine biology and work with the National Undersea Research Center. In addition to saving him from a meeting each day, the major perk to being Chief Scientist is that he is able to work much more closely with the FOO to accomplish the objectives of the science party while maintaining supervision of all of the ship’s operations. CDR Krepp is able to spend his mornings walking around the ship and checking in on the bridge, then the rest of his day is spent immersed in reviewing survey work and other administrative duties.
On a more personal level, the CO mentioned that he wished he had more time to really work with the officers on their skills. CDR Krepp mentioned that he minored in education when he was in college, so it seems a little bit of the teacher still remains. Turnover on ships is very high because officers alternate every 2-3 years between sea and land assignments, therefore he will try to improve knowledge around the ship through spontaneous questioning on various scenarios that could occur. However, he always keeps an eye on the ship’s navigation systems to make sure the ship is safe and secure. If there was one aspect of his ship that the CO could change, it would be to improve the environmental treatment of the various waste streams on the TJ. An independent energy audit of the Thomas Jefferson was conducted in 2010, and CDR Krepp hopes to make improvements to the ship during his tenure as CO. Finally, the CO will do various things around the ship to help boost morale. The people that work on the ship give up a lot of personal freedoms, especially time with family, so the CO participates in some of the team-building around the ship. For example, he consented to have his hair cut by the winner of a ship-wide raffle. Proceeds from the raffle go directly back to planning events that can happen when at a port of call, such as going to a baseball game. Thanks for the interview, Captain!
Next in line was Lieutenant Commander Christiaan van Westendorp, otherwise known as the XO. The XO actually earned the rank of Lieutenant during his six years as a Navy Officer, a portion of which was spent on a nuclear-powered Navy submarine. Navy command structures do not generally transfer directly over to the NOAA Corps, so the XO had to spend nearly an additional year as an Ensign before being given his Lieutenant rank with NOAA. He spent two years as a FOO, and then was hired as XO of the NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler before coming to the TJ in November of 2012. LCDR van Westendorp will be on the TJ until the end of 2014, be given a land assignment for a few years, and then will most likely go to his final sea assignment as the CO and/or Chief Scientist of a NOAA ship. The XO is quick to point out that his career path is atypical of most NOAA officers, and he has been fortunate to be able to spend almost his entire NOAA career based out of Norfolk.
The XO is the main administrator, safety officer, and human resources officer on the ship, among other duties. These tasks involve a lot of paperwork, but also a lot of personal skills to work with any conflicts that might arise on the ship. His favorite part of his job is walking around the ship to keep in touch with everyone, and finding new challenges to tackle every day. LCDR van Westendorp echoes the opinion of many of the people I interviewed who just can’t get enough of the dynamism of life aboard a ship. Another aspect of the dynamism of the job is the exciting locales in which he has served. Since joining NOAA in September of 2005, the XO has had the opportunity to work in exotic locations such as Belize, Barbados, Suriname, Tahiti, and Hawaii. Thanks for the interview, XO!
Working my way down the NOAA Corps Officers brought me to the second-newest officer on board, Ensign Steve Moulton. Ensign Moulton spent nine years in the Coast Guard, and has had to start over working his way up in the NOAA ranks. Right now, he feels that he is in a very heavy learning period of his career. Although he majored in an environmental field in college, he still had to attend hydrography school to learn the complex software and details of the ship’s work. Additionally, he is learning his way around a lot of collateral duties such as being the morale officer, the navigation officer, and running the ship store. Together with 8 hours of watch and processing hydrographic data, he is kept incredibly busy.
The major lesson that Ensign Moulton has internalized is to learn from your mistakes. Conditions on a ship, particularly while on the helm, change very quickly. He feels supported to spend time improving his skills, and has learned that any corrections from senior officers should only come once! Even so, Ensign Moulton enjoys the camaraderie of the ship, and being fortunate enough to spend his career on the water. He grew up in Rhode Island, and feels very connected to life at sea. Thanks for the interview, Ensign!
My final scientist interview actually spends very little of his time at sea. James Miller, Physical Scientist, spends about 6-10 weeks on various East Coast NOAA ships throughout the year. He has worked for NOAA for three years, and is based out of NOAA’s Norfolk office. James joins the TJ and the Hassler for short periods to augment their scientific work and support the survey department. James normally spends his time on shore conducting quality assurance on the surveys that come directly from NOAA’s fleet of hydro ships and hydrographic contractors. He will compile these surveys into preliminary charts that will eventually be sent off to cartographers. James has picked up the knowledge for this career through his degree in Geology, an internship with NOAA arranged through Earth Resources Technology, and on-the-job training.
Although most of James’s job occurs behind a desk, he has had the opportunity to participate in a few more exciting NOAA ventures. For example, during the Deepwater Horizon crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, James was tapped to augment on the Gordon Gunter. He has also been asked to augment on assignments to reopen major ports after large storms and hurricanes. These opportunities generally come following emergencies, so James may be asked to report to a ship with only 24 hours’ notice. Finally, as others have said, James’ favorite part of working for NOAA is the dynamism of the field. James feels that he is in a steady learning process as the field of hydrography continues to improve in technological capabilities and scientific methods. Thanks for the interview, James!
It is getting to that time where we will be headed to Norfolk soon. I have been growing steadily accustomed to life at sea, and am excited to share everything that I have learned. I think the major lesson I have taken from this experience is one of creativity. If you don’t look past what you have learned, you may never know what other opportunities exist. As a teacher, I also agree with the idea of dynamism being a huge motivation in a career. Every morning that I wake up, I have new lessons to teach and challenges to address. I hope to keep that perspective and sense of adventure when I return to my classroom in the fall.
Did You Know?
The nautical charts created by NOAA are available in digital format for free public use. Hydrographic data is collected by NOAA ships, as well as with the cooperation of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Weather Data: Air Temperature: 18.4 (approx.65°F)
Wind Speed: 10.64 kts
Wind Direction: Northwest
Surface Water Temperature: 20.08 °C (approx. 68°F)
Weather conditions: sunny and fair
Science and Technology Log:
Ocean acidification have been the buzz words in the shellfish and coral reef world for the last few decades, but how will changes in our ocean’s pH affect our coastal fisheries resources? The Henry B. Bigelow is host to another project to help monitor this very question. The ship has an automated system that draws in surface seawater through an uncontaminated line and feeds it to a spray head equilibrator (seen in photo). Here, this instrument measures the partial pressure of carbon dioxide through an infrared analyzer. Standards are used to automatically calibrate the instrument periodically so it can take data while the fish are being counted and measured. How great is that!
It has already been shown and well documented that our oceans are getting more acidic. Something to remember is that our ocean and atmosphere are always in equilibrium in terms of carbon dioxide. Therefore, if we emit more carbon dioxide some of that will be absorbed by the ocean. The rapid changes in development since the industrial revolution have led to more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and therefore, over time, more diffusing into the ocean. The amount of carbon dioxide our ocean is absorbing has changed its chemistry. Increasing partial pressure of carbon dioxide (through several chemical reactions) makes the carbonate ion less available in the ocean (especially the upper layers where much aquatic life abounds).
This does not mean the ion isn’t there, it just means it is less available. Now why is this important to fisheries? Well, many organisms are dependent on this carbonate ion to make their tests, shells, and skeletons. They combine it with the calcium ion to make calcium carbonate (calcite, aragonite and other forms). If they can’t properly calcify this affects a large range of functions. In terms of commercial fisheries, scientists want to know more how acidification will affect commercial species that make their own shells, but also the fish who call them dinner. Ocean acidification has also been shown to affect other food sources for fish and reproductive patterns of the fish themselves. The fish research at NOAA will concentrate on the early life history stages of fish, as this is their most vulnerable phase. The research priority is analyzing responses in important calcifying shellfish and other highly productive calcareous phytoplankton (base of the food chain). To learn more in detail from NOAA please read this. By monitoring the partial pressure of carbon dioxide at fisheries stations over time, scientists can compare this data with the health, location, and fitness of much of the marine life they survey.
Personal Log: As my time on the Bigelow is drawing to a close, I wanted to highlight some of the amazing women in science on board the ship who play key roles in the research and upkeep of the ship. I have asked them all a few questions about their job and for some advice for young women who would like to take on these various roles in the future! Since we have so many talented women on the ship, please stay tuned for another addition!
Fisheries Data Auditor with the Fisheries Sampling Branch
Program: Northeast Fisheries Observer Program
NOAA Fisheries Service
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
What she does:
Amanda is responsible for working with the Fisheries Data Editor to be the collator of information received from the Fisheries Observers and more specifically the Fisheries data editors. She is looking for any errors in data reporting from the Fisheries Observer Program and working with the editors who are in direct contact with them.
If you remember in my last blog, I talked about the otolith and length information going to the Population Dynamics group who make models of fisheries stocks. The data from the Fisheries Biology program is also given to this end user. This way the models take into account actual catches as well as bycatch. Other end users of the data are graduate students, institutions and other researchers.
Amanda’s favorite aspect of her job: Amanda likes being the middle person between the fishing industry while also working for the government. She likes seeing how the data change over the years with changes in regulation and gear types. She finds it interesting to see how the fisheries change over time and the locations of the fish change over time. She also loves hearing the amazing stories of being at sea.
What type of schooling/experience do you think best set you up for this job: Amanda received a degree in marine biology, which she thinks set her up perfectly. She suggests however that the major doesn’t have to be so specific as long as it has components of biology. The most important aspect she feels was volunteering and learning how to do field work with natural resource management, even if on land. Learning how to properly sample in the field was really important. Amanda is a former Fisheries Observer so she also knows the ins and outs of the program that collects the data she is auditing. This helps her look for easily recognizable errors in the data sets from all different gear types. By gear types I mean trawls vs. gill nets vs. long lines etc.
Fisheries Data Editor
Branch: Fisheries Sampling Branch
Program: Northeast Fisheries Observer Program
NOAA Fisheries Service
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
What she does: Robin deals directly with the Fisheries Observers. Fisheries observers are assigned to different boats and gear types up and down the eastern seaboard to record catches and bycatch as well as run sampling protocols. After each trip Robin checks in with the observer for a debrief and they send on their data to her. It is her responsibility to take a good look at the data for any recognizable errors in measurement or sampling error. Since she was a fisheries observer herself, she can coach the observers and help mentor them in sampling protocol and general life at sea. Once she reviews the data set it gets collated and sent off for review by the Fisheries Data Auditor.
Favorite part of her job: Robin’s favorite part of her job is being a mentor. Having done the program herself previous to her current job she has a full understanding of the logistical difficulties that observers face at sea. She also is well versed in all of the aspects of sampling with different gear types. Since she is no longer at sea on a regular basis one of her favorite aspects is getting to go to sea on a shadow trip to help out new observers. She also participates in one research trip (currently on the Bigelow now), and one special training trip each year.
What type of schooling/experience do you think best set you up for this job: Robin suggests a Biology basis for this type of job and lots of experience volunteering with field work. Understanding the methodology and practicing are very important to accurate data collection. Accuracy and practice make her job as an editor a lot easier. If you think you might be interested in this type of career Robin suggests the Fisheries Observer Internship. You can find out if you like spending a lot of time at sea, and this line of work, plus get exposure to many sampling protocols.
Job Title: Survey Technician
Office of Marine and Aviation Operations
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
What she does: Amanda wears many hats and goes wherever the Henry B. Bigelow goes. She is in charge of supervising data collection and analysis. She is the liaison between the ship’s crew and the scientific crew. She is in charge of the scientific equipment function and maintenance. Amanda is the go-to person on each survey during sampling. She also is responsible for helping crew on the back deck.
Favorite Part of her Job: Amanda’s favorite part of her job is that the ocean is her office. She lives aboard the Bigelow and where it goes, she goes.
What type of schooling/experience do you think best set you up for this job: Amanda started out working on the back deck of NOAA ships and progressed to become a survey technician. She suggests having a good background in marine biology and biology in school, but more importantly always be willing to learn.
Aboard the ship currently: Day Watch Chief
Official title: Sea-Going Biological Technician
Branch: Ecosystem Survey Branch
Northeast Fisheries Science Center
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
What she does: Nicole’s job entails being at sea between 120 and 130 days a year! She specifically goes out on Ecosystem Survey cruises that she can do some choosing with. She goes out on bottom trawling, scallop, and clam survey trips. Her job is to help the scientific party either as a watch chief or chief scientist. She has to handle all sampling as well as fully understand all of the survey techniques. She is well versed in the Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS) and needs to know her fish and critter ID. She is the one responsible for sending down all the species already pre-tagged with their ID. On top of all that she is also responsible for monitoring the censors on the net and regularly replacing them.
Favorite part of her job: Nicole’s favorite part of her job is not being in an office and being at sea. Her work environment is always changing, as the scientific crew is always changing and so are the species she works with. She enjoys working and meeting new people each cruise.
What type of schooling/experience do you think best set you up for this job:
Nicole says to get to where she is you have to work hard. You might not be the one with the most experience, but if you work hard, it doesn’t go unnoticed. She also suggests networking as much as possible. Get to know what people do and learn from them. She says studying biology was helpful, but not an absolute necessity. Above all, make sure you love what you do and make sure you are excited to go to work.
Job Title Diadromous Fish Department Intern
Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)
State of New York
What she does: Caitlin participates in field surveys twice a week that target striped bass. The data are used to look at their migration patterns in Long Island waters. While at DEC she was also looking at the juvenile fish species in the bays and estuaries of Long Island sounds. Her job entails collecting data in the field, entering it and collating data for the various projects.
Her favorite aspect of the job: She really enjoys that her job is a mix of office and field work where she can put some of the research and management skills she learned at Stonybrook University into practice. She also really enjoys seeing the many species that call Long Island Sound home.
What type of schooling/experience do you think best set you up for this job: Caitlin suggests trying to make as many connections as possible, and not to be afraid to ask questions. Programs are always looking for volunteers and interns. If you are interested in working at the governmental level she suggests a postgraduate work in Marine Conservation and Policy (she attended Stonybrook University).
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for my final blog with lots of critters from the cruise!
Weather Data from the Bridge Air Temperature: 29.2C (84.5F)
Wind Speed: 6.07 knots
Wind Direction: from the SSW
Relative Humidity: 76%
Barometric Pressure: 1016.8
Surface Water Temperature: 30.82C (87F)
Science and Technology Log
Today we made our way about 50 nautical miles off shore to the North Florida Marine Protected Area (MPA) accompanied by dolphins and flying fish. The North Florida MPAs were closed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to bottom fishing in order to sustain and repopulate the following species of fish: snowy grouper, yellowedge grouper, Warsaw grouper, speckled hind grouper, misty grouper as well as golden and blueline tilefish. A second part of our science team is looking at the benthic invertebrates such as corals and sponges as they provide a habitat for the grouper and tilefish to live in. The types of corals and sponges we expect to see in this area include: black coral, whip coral, purple gorgonian, Tanacetipathes, and the stink sponge.
We did three Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) dives with the Phantom S II. Each dive was between one and two hours long depending on the bottom conditions. The winch from the Pisces would lower the ROV to the bottom of the ocean approximately 50-60 meters deep (164 to 196 feet). The area in the MPA we were looking at had been mapped the night before using the ship’s Multibeam Sonar to give the scientists a better idea of where to look and what type of bottom features they will see. The current at the bottom for a couple of the dives was about 1.5 knots. This made it pretty difficult to spend quality time looking at the species. The Scientists will take this data back to the lab where they can spend more time with each video to fully catalog each species we saw today.
Once the ROV’s cameras were rolling, the science team was able to begin logging all of the different species that they saw. Each part of the transect line is carefully documented with a date and time stamp as well as a latitude, longitude and depth. Also mounted on the ROV is a small CTD to collect the temperature and depth every 15 seconds. This will help the scientists match up all of the details for each habitat that we saw with the video on the ROV. While the ROV is at the bottom collecting data, there are several different stations going on in the lab at the time.
John Reed and Stephanie Farrington are looking mostly at the benthic invertebrates, Stacey Harter and Andy David are cataloging all of the fish they are able to see and identify, and Lance Horn and Glenn Taylor are manning the ROV. There is also a fourth station where one of the scientists uses a microphone to annotate the video as it is being recorded onto a DVD. Today John, Stacey and Andy all took turns at the video annotation station. Basically they are verbally describing the bottom features and habitat they see as well as all the different species of fish and corals. This will make it easier for the scientists when they get back into their home labs as they process their data. For each one hour of video taken it will take Stacey between four and eight hours to catalog each fish found as the ROV passed by. This information is compiled into a report that will be shared with the South Atlantic Council to show if the targeted species are actually making a comeback in these MPAs.
Today some of the species we saw include reef butterflyfish, vermillion snapper, filogena coral, blue angelfish, purple gorgonian,yellowtail reef fish, black corals, bigeye fish, squirrelfish, wire corals, scamp grouper, hogfish, ircinia sponges as well as a couple of lobsters and a loggerback sea turtle.
Tomorrow we will make several more dives at another site outside the North Florida MPA so we can compare this data with the data taken today inside the MPA.
Life on the ship is really different in some ways compared to life on land. There is the constant rocking of the ship, which my inner ears are not very fond of. The bedrooms are not the biggest and we each share with one other person. I am rooming with Stephanie Farrington and she is very easy to get along with. The food has been great — it would be very easy to gain weight while working on the Pisces. The stewards do a fantastic job preparing meals for everyone on the ship. Meal times are the same each day, breakfast is from 7-8 am, lunch is from 11am to noon, and dinner is from 5-6pm. If someone is working the night shift, they can request that a meal be set aside for them so they can eat later.
Ocean Careers Interview
In this section, I will be interviewing scientists and crew members to give my students ideas for careers they may find interesting and might want to pursue someday. Today I interviewed Stacey Harter, the Chief Scientist for this mission.
What is your job title? I am a Research Ecologist at NOAA Fisheries Panama City Lab.
What type of responsibilities do you have with this job? My responsibilities are to acquire funding for my research, as well as plan the trips, go on the cruise to gather the data, and analyze the data when I get back. I am also collaborating on other projects with NOAA Beaufort in North Carolina and St. Andrew Bay studying the juvenile snapper and grouper populations in the sea grass found at this location.
What type of education did you need to get this job? I got my Bachelors degree in Biology from Florida State University and my Masters degree in Marine Biology from University of Alabama.
What types of experiences have you had with this job? My best experience I’ve had was getting to go down in a manned submersible to a depth of 2,500 feet to study deep water corals and the fish that live there.
What is your best advice for a student wanting to become a marine biologist? Do internships! This is the best way to get your name out there and to make connections with people who might be able to get you a job after college. I had an internship at the NOAA Panama City Lab while I was in graduate school which helped me to get my job with NOAA when I graduated.
Perhaps you are sitting at your desk right now, contemplating finishing work that you probably should be doing, or putting the last touches on a college application, or wondering if anyone brought any treats to share that are sitting in the lounge waiting your attention. Maybe it is late at night, and you are wishing that your work tomorrow was just a little more exciting.
What if your work tomorrow looked like this? Why not choose a life at sea instead? Think of this: thousands before you have gone off to sea… …and while it isn’t as romantic as it once was with pirate attacks and years away from home, it is now a lot more comfortable. Perhaps you have always dreamed of becoming a commanding officer of a ship, or a boatswain, or an engineer… How does one do it? How do you get to live, work, and learn through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? Look no further friends, I have just the right reading material to get you started: So you want to be a scientist? (Cartoon citations 1, 2 and 3).
Of particular interest to me (not surprisingly) are the opportunities for science research and exploration. I was captivated by Dr. Edith Widder’s research about bioluminscence, interested in the 2004 Titanic Expedition, and humbled by the wealth of knowledge presented in interviews with people from a variety of ocean careers.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette July 1 — 14, 2011
Mission: IEA (Integrated Ecosystem Assessment)
Geographical Area: Kona Region of Hawaii
Captain: Kurt Dreflak
Science Director: Samuel G. Pooley, Ph.D.
Chief Scientist: Evan A. Howell
Date: July 11, 2011
Surf. Water Temp.
Surf. Water Sal.
Deputy Director of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (NOAA): Mike Seki
Duty: I oversee all operations at the Pacific Islands Science Center. That includes all operation: four research divisions, administration and information technology, science operations. Under science operations the Science Center has about 30 small boats (12 to 30 feet) and the Oscar Elton Sette ship (224 feet) to support the mission…
What do you like about the job? It allows me to see how it all comes together; all facets of the science and how we accomplish our mission.
Experience/ Education: I have BS in biology and have worked with NOAA for 31 years. While working, I went back to school to get my masters and PHD. In today’s world, to be credible, you really need to have an education. Most of our research scientists have a PHD.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Trying to do what we can with limited resources. We have to prioritize and that involves making tough decisions.
Captain (CO) Commanding Officer: LCDR Kurt Dreflak, NOAA
Duty: I have responsibility for the whole ship; safety, operations, moral, everything.
What do you like about the job? I like it best when everyone works together and all the pieces fall into place. We get a chance to see things most people don’t. It‘s a unique opportunity that we shouldn’t take for granted.
Experience/ Education: I obtained a BS in geosystems in environmental management, worked as a geologist at an environmental consulting firm, and have forked for NOAA for 12 years.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?
There are things you don’t have any control over.
Executive Officer (XO): Chief Mate Richard (Pat) Patana
Duty: Second in command after Commanding Officer. I do the administrative work for the ship.
What do you like about the job? I like the NOAA mission, and the job pays well.
Experience/ Education: I am a licensed Captain. I am from Alaska and used to be a commercial long line fisherman in Alaska, Canada, and the West Coast catching shrimp, halibut, and salmon. Then I worked with charter fishing boats.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?
The administrative duties.
LCDR (Lieutenant Commander): Hung Tran, USPHS
LCDR (Lieutenant Commander): Hung Tran, USPHS
Duty: Medical officer- Emergency medical care on the ship.
I actually work for the United States Public Health Service.
What do you like about the job? Meeting new people
Experience/ Education: Eight years of schooling in Chicago, IL. I use to work for the Bureau of Prisons in Honolulu.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? The ship is kind of like a “mini-jail”. We are out to sea for long periods and you can’t go anywhere. The confinement can be hard.
What is the most common reason for seeing the doctor at sea? Sea sickness and headaches.
Field Operations officer (OPS): LT Colin Little, NOAA
Duty: A liaison between scientists and command officer (CO)
What do you like about the job? I was trained as a scientist, so I like to use that background to better understand where the scientists are coming from and what they want to do, then use the information to relay it to the Captain (CO).
Experience/ Education: I have a BA in biology and a Masters in evolutionary biology. I have worked my way up to this position by doing various jobs. I work onshore and on the ship at sea. We get transferred every few years, so I will be going to Oregon next.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?Being away from home.
Chief Scientist: Evan Howell
Duty: Directs the operations of the scientists, coordinates activities working with the OPS to make sure the bridge understands what the scientists are trying to accomplish, and writes report on progress.
What do you like about the job? Although it is tough while we’re going through the process of gathering data, to me it is very satisfying in the end to have something that people can use to further studies of the ecosystem.
Experience /Education: I have a PHD; however, I didn’t have it when I began the job with NOAA. What’s important for this position is to be able to organize all the different studies, communicate with the scientists and know when to push or back off. You need to be able to see the “big picture” of the project and keep it going forward.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? It is kind of like a juggling act keeping everything going smoothly. There are so many activities happening at the same time, it is sometimes very challenging.
Research Fishery Biologist: Donald
Duty: Research projects dealing with oceanography. (For example; protected species, turtles and larval transports). On this cruise, I am helping lead the midwater trawling operations.
What do you like about the job? The variety. You don’t get bored with one thing. I tend to get bored working on just one thing at a time.
Experience/ Education: I got my masters in biological oceanography, went to work at NOAA, and then went back to school for my PHD.
Can you explain the hardest part your job? Short deadlines and not enough time.
PHD Students: Both up nights supervising the trawls, organizing, recording data, and writing reports.
Johanna: She is working on her PHD through UH in oceanography. Johanna has been working closely with Donald researching larval transport.
John: He is also working on his PHD in preparative biology through the Museum of Natural History in New York. His specialty is studying mictophids.
Scientist (on ship)/Science Operation Lead (on land): Noriko
Duty: My primary duty is to serve as the PIFSC Vessel Coordinator, and to oversee the science portion of the NOAA Marine Natural Monuments Program. My group also handles permits, and makes sure our internal programs are properly in compliance with NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act- 1969. On the ship I am working acoustics.
What do you like about the job? Overseeing a great team of people that help PIFSC scientists go out into the field to conduct important research.
Experience/Education: I got my BS degree, became a survey technician, and then went back to school for my masters in environmental management.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Coordinating with people outside of our structure can be challenging. We work with the US Fish and Wildlife, the State of Hawaii, Guam and Samoa, the Marianas, and other sections of NOAA.
Stewards (Clementine, Jay, and Jeff)
What do you like about the job?
Chief Steward: Clementine: My passion is cooking. So I enjoy my job. I can put any kind of food I want out here. The sky’s the limit!
2nd Cook: Jay: I love being on the ocean and living in Hawaii. And I enjoy working with Clementine who is a native of Samoa. She teaches me about Polynesian and Asian cuisine.
Clementine: I used to run my own business in America Samoa. It was a catering business called Mai Sei Aute which means “my hibiscus flower” in Samoan. I catered to a private school named Pacific Horizon, with 130 students and did all the work myself; cooking, delivering, and cleaning. The way I got this job is a long story. I started out on the ship called Ka’imimoana. My husband heard one of the cooks left, so I flew over to Hawaii and was working two weeks later. Then I moved over to the OES seven years later.
Jay: I’m from Rhode Island and graduated from Johnson and Wales University where I earned a BS in culinary arts.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?
Long hours! We work 12-14 hours a day while at sea with no days off. If we are at sea 30 days, we work 30 days. Another thing is you don’t always have your own room. Sometimes you share with another person.
Deck and Engineering Departments
Chief Engineer: Harry
Duty: I am responsible for the engineering department on board the ship. That includes the engine room, hydraulic, electric, all the equipment, and the propulsion plant that keeps the ship underway.
What do you like about the job?
It is a “hands on” type of job, and I enjoy repairing equipment.
I spent 22 years in the Navy and obtained my Chief Engineer License through the Coast Guard.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?
Finding good qualified people is difficult. You can delegate the work, but not the responsibility. So if the employee I hire doesn’t do the job, I am responsible for getting it done.
Chief Boatswain: Kenji
Duty: Supervise the deck department
What do you like about the job? When everything runs smoothly
Education/Experience: I’ve worked for NOAA 24 years. Before that I was a commercial fisherman on an AKU Sampan.
Explain the hardest part of your job: Rough seas make the work more difficult and dangerous.
What do you like about the job?
Bruce: Everything! I like working with the machines, the science, helping the environment, and the people. I like NOAA’s mission. And my boss; he’s the best boss I ever had. He has patience with us.
Ray: I love everything about my job. I like the fact that I am at sea and learn things every day and meet new people all the time. The science part of it opens up a whole new world to me. It is something that I wish everyone could experience.
Phil: I agree with NOAA’s mission of ocean management and conservation. This ship, in particular, is a nice place to work because of the people.
Bruce: I have worked for NOAA for 10 years. Before that, I was a long line fisherman; mostly AHI. I also worked construction with heavy equipment.
Ray: I was in the Navy when I was young. Then I attended Prince George Community College in Maryland and Rets Electronic School in New Jersey. I had my own electronics business. NOAA sends us to different places for training; for example Mitags (Maritime Institute of technology and graduate studies).
Phil: I have worked real estate appraisal for 20 plus years. I used to have my own real estate appraisal business in Honolulu, worked for a bank doing appraisals, and also for the city and state. Right before this job, I worked on an import ship. Then I was trained by NOAA at the Hawaii Maritime Institute. They trained me on firefighting, lifesaving, and construction of ships, lookouts, and also personal responsibility.
Mills: I went to high school and college in South Carolina to get a degree in marine technology. Then I worked in Alaska for salmon hatcheries. I moved back to South Carolina and worked for the SCDNR (Dept. of Natural Resources). Five years ago, NOAA called me and asked if I could go to Dutch Harbor in two weeks, and I’ve been with them ever since. I started out working in the hydrographic side of things.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?
Bruce: Nothing really. I like my job.
Ray: Dealing with negativity issues and people conflicts.
Phil: I would say it has to be adjusting to the schedules. We don’t have a regular 8 hour on, 8 hour off schedule. It varies.
Mills: The hardest part is being away from the world; people, the social life. But then that is the best part of it also.
Coxswain: small boat operator:Jamie
Duty: I’m in charge of the Boating Safety Program and Instructor of Boating Courses for the scientific staff and I help the Pacific Science Center with research boats. There are 24 small boats.
What do you like about the job?: Being on the water and driving the boats
Experience/ Education: I received a degree in marine biology at UC Santa Cruz. Then I began doing field projects and became known to NOAA.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Doing the certificates for boating courses along with paperwork and record keeping is my least favorite part of the job.
ET: Electronic Technician: Ricardo
Duty: I’m in charge of all the electronics, information technology, navigational system, communication system, sensors, and computer network.
What do you like about the job? I enjoy it when I get a chance to help others, like the time I was called ashore to help some people on a small island. I also like that I have a partner to share the job with. We switch every two months (onshore/offshore). I am glad to be able to travel, the pay is good, and I like accomplishing things that make the ship look good.
Experience/ Education: I did not go to college, and barely finished high school. Then I joined the Air Force. There is only one tech person, and that is me.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Climbing the mast where the antennas are and writing weekly reports are things I could glad give to someone else.
Research Oceanographer: Reka Domokos
Duty: Works as an active acoustician for NOAA at the Pacific Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu.
What do you like about the job?
I like that in my job there is always something new, so I am always learning. I like to look at the big picture to see how the different components of an ecosystem fit together and influence each other. I like formulating hypotheses, and then test them to see if they hold. I am also detail oriented so I enjoy writing computer scripts for my data analyses. In addition, I like contributing to the “collective knowledge” by writing articles that summarized and describe my research and results.
I have a Ph.D. in physical oceanography. I attended Berkley for a BS in zoology, then UH Manoa for a masters in zoology and a masters in physical oceanography. I also earned my Ph.D. at UH Manoa where I taught graduate courses in Zoology and Oceanography before working with NOAA. I believe that sometimes more experience can be substituted for education when applying for a job.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job?
Sitting in an office everyday can sometimes be hard, but spending a month, or sometimes more, a year at sea and going to conferences help to break the monotony. I also have to take care of administrative duties as part of my job which is necessary but not enjoyable for me.
Aimee: This is a special case. Aimee was a previous Hollings Scholar who now works at the University of Michigan and is on the ship working co-op with NOAA in the acoustics department. She lives in Michigan and got her degree in Marine Science Biology, but would like to stay in Hawaii. Before boarding the ship she was researching wind farms and fish. She collects data so that they can see if the underwater wind turbines will affect the fish .
Survey Technician: Stephanie
Duty: Responsible for data collection from shipboard oceanographic sensors; CTD deployment and retrieval, water filtering for chlorophyll-a samples
What do you like about the job? I like the simple life on the ship. There are no roads with traffic and you don’t have to carry around your wallet or keys.
Experience/Education: I have my bachelor’s degree, and plan on going back to school this fall. I have worked for NOAA for two and a half years.
Mammal Research Observers: Allan and Jessica
Mammal Observation-So far we have taken over 2700 photos and several tissue samples for researching dolphins and whales.
Allan: What do you like about the job? I like being on the water and getting paid for it at the same time.
Experience/ Education: I earned my engineering degree, but didn’t use it. I began volunteering for whale watching and doing volunteer work for the University of Hawaii coral reef research. I have lived in Hawaii for 14 years, but recently started spending half of my year in Montana, so that I can experience the four seasons.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? The toughest thing is not finding any dolphin or whale species. It makes a long day. If the water is rough, it is harder to see them. The best condition to spot them in is when it is smooth and calm.
Jessica: What do you like about the job? I love small boats, being on the water, and finding less frequently seen species.
Experience/ Education: I attended Hawaii Pacific University and have a master’s in marine science. Right now I’m working a one year position for NOAA called the NIMB Fellowship.
Can you explain the hardest part of your job? The same thing Allan said, coming home without seeing anything is disappointing.
Laura: She is attending Stanford University as a senior, majoring in Earth Systems with an emphasis on Oceanography. It includes a wide range of classes, and she has had very interesting traveling experiences while learning. Right now on the OES, she is doing an internship working with the CTD process. This is a paid job with NOAA. Laura’s past experiences include sailing around Cape Cod, a trip to Australia for a Study Abroad Program, and a five-week trip to the Line Islands South of Hawaii. Her plan is to go to school a fifth year to earn a master’s degree while also working in the field.
Nikki: After this cruise, Nikki will have 82 days at sea under her belt. She started going out during high school in New Jersey. Her charter school had a vessel. Right now she is in the Hollings Scholar Program through NOAA. She applied and received a two year scholarship for her junior and senior year of college. She is attending the University of Miami. And when she finishes that, she has a conditional acceptance to attend RASMAS (University of Miami Science Grad School) where she wants to get her masters in Aquaculture.
Jonathan: Miami is Jonathan’s home and he is also in the Hollings Scholar Program. He is a senior majoring in Marine Science Chemistry. He would like to attend grad school, but needs to make up his mind what area to study because it becomes very specialized. His two choices are ocean acidification or biofuels. After the cruise he will be going to Washington DC to present what he has learned.
Meagan: She lives in Honolulu and attends University of Hawaii. In December she will obtain her degree in Marine Biology. She has been employed with NOAA since Nov. 2010 working at the Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center with data collected around the N.Pacific Transition Zone. On this cruise she is helping with the acoustics. Meagan also works at the Waikiki Aquarium educating others about marine life. She hopes to continue with NOAA and educating the public about conserving and protecting the ocean.
UH Marine Research Technician: Jennie Mowatt—
-Preparation and deployment of the Ocean Glider SG513