NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
July 4 – July 22, 2022
Mission: Hydrographic Survey of Lake Erie
Geographic Area of Cruise: Lake Erie
Date: July 13, 2022
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 42ᵒ 10.30’ N
Longitude: 080ᵒ 17.60’ W
Sky Conditions: Few clouds
Visibility: 10+ miles
Wind Speed: 6.1 knots
Wind Direction: 288ᵒ W
Lake Temperature: 22.0 ᵒC
Wave Height: 1 foot
Dry Bulb: 21.1 ᵒC
Wet Bulb: 17.7 ᵒC
Calculated Relative Humidity: 75%
Science and Technology Log
Seeing several people aboard in uniform caused me to ask, “Is NOAA part of the military?”
According to the NOAA Corps website, “The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps) is one of the nation’s eight uniformed services. NOAA Corps officers are an integral part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and serve with the special trust and confidence of the President.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, known as the NOAA Corps, is one of just two uniformed services with no enlisted or warrant officers. The Corps is made up of engineers, oceanographers, geologists, and meteorologists (among others) who support federal departments in earth science projects. The officers operate NOAA’s ships, fly aircraft, manage research projects, conduct diving operations, and serve in staff positions throughout NOAA. Prior to going out to sea, NOAA Corps officers attend 18 weeks of training at the US Coast Guard Academy’s Officer Candidate School (OCS) in New London, CT. They are not always out to sea; NOAA Corps officers who work on ships rotate between driving the ship for two years and supporting science missions ashore for three years. NOAA Corps officers enable NOAA to fulfill mission requirements, meet changing environmental concerns, take advantage of emerging technologies, and serve as environmental first responders.
The history of the NOAA Corps can be traced back to 1807 when Thomas Jefferson signed a bill establishing the “Survey of the Coast,” which charted the country’s coasts and waterways. Their mission has expanded well beyond coastal mapping. It currently has 320+ officers who oversee more than a dozen ships and nine specialized aircraft, including the Hurricane Hunters.
Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, ~ 30% or 10 out of 34 souls aboard are part of the NOAA Corps. The positions of Commanding Officer (CO), Executive Officer (XO), Operations Officer (OPS), and Operations Officer in Training (OPS IT) are all filled with members of the NOAA Corps. The OPS is also called a Field Operations Officer (FOO). (OPS = FOO) The Medical Officer (MO) is often an ensign, however, on TJ, our MO is a professional mariner. All officers are trained to be an Officer of the Deck (OOD); prior to qualification they serve as a Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD). These are the people who drive, or are learning to drive, the ship. Other duties the Junior Officers serve are Navigation Officer (Nav-O), Damage Control Officer (DCO), and the Environmental Compliance Officer (ECO).
TJ serves as a training ground for Ensigns. These are people new to the Corps. Some have attended maritime academies, or been in prior service, such as the U.S. Navy. However, their prior experience must include a baccalaureate degree, and completion of at least 48 semester hours in science, technology, math, or engineering course work pertaining to NOAA’s missions. They become ensigns after graduation from OCS, also known as NOAA’s Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC). You see them all over the ship. They are eager to learn and seem to train or study non-stop! No wonder! There is so much to learn. Ensigns fill many “collateral positions” such as Medical Officer (MO) and Damage Control Officer (DCO). The DCO are on the fire and emergency squad.
The maritime academies in the United States are listed below. Click on the links below if you wish to learn more about any of these institutions.
College Degree granting institutions offering maritime degrees and USCG-approved courses include:
- Governmental – federal – United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York
- Governmental – state – University of Alaska Southeast, Juneau, Alaska
- Governmental – state – California State University Maritime Academy (part of the California State University system), Vallejo, California
- Governmental – state – Great Lakes Maritime Academy (a division of Northwestern Michigan College), Traverse City, Michigan
- Governmental – state – Maine Maritime Academy, Castine, Maine
- Governmental – state – Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts
- Governmental – state – State University of New York Maritime College (part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system), New York City
- Governmental – state – Texas A&M Maritime Academy (part of the Texas A&M University System), Galveston, Texas
- Governmental – state – San Jacinto College Maritime Technology & Training Center (part of the San Jacinto College system), Houston, Texas
- Governmental – state – Seattle Maritime Academy (part of Seattle Central College) (community college), Seattle, Washington
- Private – Northeast Maritime Institute (community college), Fairhaven, Massachusetts
- Private – FMTC Safety Training Center, Houma, Louisiana
I wish I had known about the NOAA Corps when I was making career decisions. It has the discipline and culture of the armed services, yet it is focused on the sciences. The upper age limit to enter the Corps is 42 years old. I guess at this point, I can only encourage others to consider the NOAA Corps as a career option. 😊
Click here &/or watch the following video for more information about the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.
I have been asked to give a presentation to the crew about the Dalton Local School’s STEAM program. They also would like to know possible lesson ideas I will develop in the future and “takeaways” from the Teacher at Sea experience.
The following is a slide show of my presentation.
Human Interest Poll (HIP)
Recently, I started a Human-Interest Poll (HIP) where I post a question on the bulletin board outside of the lounge and give the crew 2-3 days to respond. The latest question was, “Where was the coolest place you have gone on a ship?” See their responses below.
A = The Channel Islands
B = San Juan Islands
C = Japan
D = Guam
E = Norfolk, VA (Home)
F = Bering Sea in Winter
G = Point Hope, AK
H = Panama Canal
I = Little Diomede Island, AK
J = St. Lawrence Seaway
K = Bali
L = Adak, AK
M = The Equator
N = Ocean View, DE
Stay tuned! The next HIP is, “What were the highest seas you have ever experienced? Where?”
For the little Dawgs . . .
Q: Where is Dewey today? Hint: Athletes like to use this room.
A: Dewey is in the Exercise Room. This room is in the bottom floor of the ship. I heard that it is one of the best exercise rooms in the NOAA fleet of ships! Even though this is a large ship, you really do not get many “steps” each day. Exercising is part of staying healthy. I try to work out each day. It is an interesting experience to use the treadmill when we are experiencing 4–6-foot waves!
Joke of the Day
Q: Where do ghosts go to sail?
A Lake Eerie!
I am enjoying sharing my NOAA Teacher at Sea experience with you. I am looking forward to sharing it with my K-8 STEAM students in the fall!