Mission: Pelagic Juvenile Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean off the California Coast
Date: June 12, 2017
A Chrysaora colorata jellyfish with an anchovy
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.
Cherisa (far right) when the Reuben Lasker was commissioned From: https://www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/marine-operations/ships/reuben-lasker
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. 🙂
Wrapping up a trawl – measuring & bagging
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.
Last Haul- off coast of San Diego Photo by Keith Sakuma
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.”
Measuring Northern Lampfish
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: Spring Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) Survey (Plankton and Hydrographic Data)
Geographic Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 7, 2017
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 050°NE
Wind Speed: 13 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-4 Feet
Barometric Pressure: 1006.7 Millibars
Sea Water Temperature: 14.8°C
Air Temperature: 12.8°C
The Eve of Debarkation (Tuesday, June 6)
Today is the eve of my debarkation (exit from NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter). Our estimated time of arrival (ETA) to Pier 2 at the Naval Station Newport is 10 a.m. tomorrow, June 7th. Before I disembark, the sea apparently wants to me remind me of its size and force. Gordon Gunter has been rocked back and forth by the powerful waves that built to around 5 feet overnight. Nonetheless, it is full steam ahead to finish collecting samples from the remaining oceanography stations. All hands on deck, as the saying goes. The navigational team steer the vessel, engineers busy themselves in the engine room, deck hands keep constant watch, scientists plan for the final stations, and the stewards continue to provide the most delicious meals ever. I am determined to not let a bumpy ship ride affect my appetite. It is my last full day aboard Gordon Gunter, and I plan to enjoy every sight, sound, and bite.
Coming into Port (Wednesday, June 7)
I am concluding my log on board NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter, in port. It seems fitting that my blog finish where it took life 10 days ago. When I first set foot on the gangway a week and a half ago, I had no idea of the adventure that lay in front of me. I have had so many new experiences during the Spring Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) Survey—from sailing the Gulf of Maine to collecting plankton samples, along with many special events in between.
I have grown accustomed to life on board Gordon Gunter. The constant rattling of the ship and the never-ending blowing of the air-conditioner no longer bother me, they soothe me. It is remarkable what we as humans can do when we just do it. At this time last year I never would have imagined working on a research vessel in the North Atlantic. It is nice proving yourself wrong. There is always a new experience waiting. Why hesitate? The memories I have made from the Teacher at Sea program will be amongst the ones I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I won’t keep the experience and the memories just for myself either. Back home at Simpson Elementary School, 670 eager 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders are waiting to experience oceanography and life at sea vicariously through their librarian. Through the knowledge I have gained about the EcoMon Survey, my blog, photographs, and videos, I am prepared to steer my students toward an understanding and appreciation of the work that is being done by NOAA. Gordon Gunter steered us in the right direction throughout the entire mission, and I plan to do the same for students in my library media center.
Seeing the Bigger Picture
Many types of zooplankton and phytoplankton are microscopic, unable to be seen by the naked eye. From 300 plus meters out, birds can appear to be specks blowing in the wind. But with a microscope and a pair of binoculars, we can see ocean life much more clearly. The organisms seem to grow in size when viewed through the lenses of these magnification devices. From the smallest fish larvae to the largest Blue Whale, the ocean is home to millions of species. All the data collected during the EcoMon Survey (plankton samples, wildlife observers, ship’s log of weather conditions, and GPS coordinates) creates a bigger picture of the ocean’s ecosystem. None of the data aboard Gordon Gunter is used in isolation. Science is interconnected amongst several variables.
Take for instance the avian observers’ data which is most useful when analyzed in terms of the current environmental conditions in which each bird or marine animal was seen: sea temperature, wind speed, and water currents. This kind of data in conjunction with the plankton samples will help scientists create predictive models of the marine environment. Our understanding of the hydrographic and planktonic components of the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf Ecosystem will help us prepare for a more sustainable future where marine life flourishes.
My answer would be that we need to do these ecosystem monitoring surveys because we are on the front lines of observing and documenting first hand what’s going on in our coastal and offshore waters. The science staff, aided by the ship’s command and crew, is working 24 / 7 to document as much as they can about the water conditions, not just on the surface but down to 500 meters, by measuring light, chlorophyll, and oxygen levels as well as nutrients available. Water column temperatures and salinities are profiled and Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC) levels are checked as a way of measuring seawater acidity at the surface, mid-water and bottom depths. What planktonic organisms are present? Plankton tows across the continental shelf down to 200 meters are made to collect them. What large marine organisms such as whales, turtles and seabirds are present in different areas and at different times of the year, and are they different from one year to the next? From one decade to the next? Two seabird observers work throughout the daylight hours to document and photograph large marine organisms encountered along our cruise track. Without this information being gathered on a regular basis and in a consistent manner over a long period of time, we would have no way of knowing if things are changing at all. [Source — Jerry Prezioso, Chief Scientist]
Just as the ocean changes, so does the science aboard the ship. So, what’s next for Gordon Gunter? Three days after my debarkation from the vessel, Gunter will be employed on an exploratory survey of Bluefin Tuna. This is quite an iconic survey since scientists could be on the brink of a new discovery. Bluefin Tuna were once thought to only spawn in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea. That is until researchers began to find Bluefin Tuna larvae in the deep waters between the Gulf Stream and the northeast United States. Fifty years ago fishermen believed Bluefin Tuna were indeed spawning in this part of the Gulf Stream, but it was never thoroughly researched. The next survey aboard Gordon Gunter (June 10-24) will collect zooplankton samples which scientists predict will contain Bluefin Tuna larvae. The North Gulf Stream is not an area regularly surveyed for Bluefin Tuna. It is quite exciting. The data will tell scientists about the life history and genetics of these high-profile fish. NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter has executed countless science missions, each special in its own right. Yes, it is time for me to say farewell to Gordon Gunter, but another group of researchers won’t be far behind to await their turn to come aboard.
360-degree of the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.
A BIG Thank You!
I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the NOAA crew for such an amazing voyage I would like to thank the ship’s stewards, Chief Steward, Margaret Coyle and 2nd Cook, Paul Acob. Their hospitality cannot be matched. From day one, they treated me like family. They prepared each meal with care just like my mother and grandmother do. I cannot imagine enjoying another ship’s food like I have that aboard Gordon Gunter.To the stewards, thank you.
I would like to thank the deck team for their continual hard work throughout the cruise. Chief Boatswain, Jerome Taylor is the definition of leadership. I watched on countless occasions his knack for explaining the most difficult of tasks to others. Jerome knows the ship and all her components like the back of his hand. The deck crew left no stone unturned as they carried out their duties. To the deck crew, thank you.
I would like to thank the engineers. Without the engineering team our cruise would not have been possible. The engineers keep the heart of the ship running, the engine. I am astounded by the engineers’ ability to maintain and repair all of Gordon Gunter’s technical equipment: engines, pumps, electrical wiring, communication systems, and refrigeration equipment. To the engineers, thank you.
I would like to thank the wonderful science team, who patiently taught me the ropes and addressed each of my questions. It is because of their knowledge that I was able to share the research being done during our Ecosystem Monitoring Survey. To the science team, thank you.
I would like to thank the NOAA Corps officers who welcomed me and my questions at all times. These technically skilled officers are what make scientific projects like the EcoMon successful. They remained steadfast in the way of any challenge. They ensured the successful completion of our mission. To the NOAA Corps officers, thank you.
NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps): “Stewards of the Sea”
NOAA Corps is one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. With 321 officers, the NOAA Corps serves throughout the agency to support nearly all of NOAA’s programs and missions. Corps officers operate NOAA’s ships, fly aircraft, manage research projects, conduct diving operations, and serve in staff positions throughout NOAA. The combination of commissioned service and scientific expertise makes these officers uniquely capable of leading some of NOAA’s most important initiatives. [Source — NOAA Corps]
Great Black-backed Gull
All officer candidates must attend an initial 19-week Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC). The curriculum is challenging, with on board ship-handling exercises coupled with classroom instruction in leadership, officer bearing, NOAA mission and history, ship handling, basic seamanship, firefighting, navigation, and first aid. BOTC is held at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, where new NOAA Corps recruits train alongside Coast Guard officer candidates before receiving their first assignment to a NOAA ship for up to 3 years of sea duty. [Source — NOAA Corps] The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps is built on honor, respect, and commitment.
Meet Gordon Gunter’s NOAA Corps Officers
Meet Lieutenant Commander, Lindsay Kurelja!
Lieutenant Commander, Lindsay Kurelja
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? As Commanding Officer (CO) I am wholly responsible for everything that happens on board. I’m the captain of the boat. I am in charge of all people and actions that happen on board.
Have you had much experience working at sea? I started going to sea when I was 18. That’s 20 years.
Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? I stay on a four hour watch on the bridge where I am in charge of the navigational chart and maneuvering of the vessel. I also disperse myself amongst managing the four departments on board to concentrate on the engineering and maintenance side of things.
What is your educational background? I graduated from Texas Maritime Academy with a degree in Marine Biology and a minor in Marine Transportation which gave me a third mate unlimited license with the U.S. Coast Guard. I then came straight to work for NOAA.
What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? Our navigational equipment. Nothing is more important to a navigational officer than a pair of dividers and a set of triangles.
What is your favorite marine animal? My favorite marine animal are Ctenophoras. Ctenophoras are little jellyfish that are unique in the evolutionary scale because of their abilities despite the lack of brains.
Meet Lieutenant Commander, Chad Meckley!
Lieutenant Commander, Chad Meckley
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? I am the Executive Officer (XO) aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter. I am second in command after the Commanding Officer.
Have you had much experience working at sea? Yes. This is my third sea assignment. My first sea assignment was for two years on the Albatross IV. I also sailed aboard the McArthur II for a year, I did six months on the Henry Bigelow, and I was certified while sailing on the Coast Guard Cutter EAGLE. I have had quite a bit of sea time so far in my career.
Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? If I am not on the bridge on watch, you can find me in my office. As XO one of my primary responsibilities is administrative work—from time and attendance to purchasing.
What is your educational background? I earned a bachelor’s degree at Shippensburg State University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. I studied Geography and Environmental Science.
What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? The biggest tool we have aboard the ship that we use more than anything are the nautical charts. Without our nautical charts, we wouldn’t be going anywhere. We could not get safely from point A to point B and accomplish our mission of science and service aboard these vessels.
What is your favorite marine animal? That’s a tough one because there’s so many cool animals in the sea and on top of the sea. I am really fascinated by Moray eels. The way they move through the water and their freaky, beady eyes make them really neat animals.
Meet Lieutenant Junior Grade, Libby Mackie!
Lieutenant Junior Grade, Libby Mackie
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? I am the Operations Officer on board. One step below the Executive Officer. I do the coordination of the scientists.
Have you had much experience working at sea? I had some experience at sea when I was in the NAVY. Even though I never went underway in the NAVY, but I did have a second job on some of the dive boats in Hawaii. After I got out of the NAVY and went to school I got some small boat time there. Other ships I have sailed on with NOAA are the Oscar Dyson, the Reuben Lasker, and the Bell M. Shimada.
Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? On the bridge and in the dry lab with the scientists.
What is your educational background? I have a bachelor’s of science in Marine Biology and an associate’s degree in Mandarin.
What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? The coffee machine!
What is your favorite marine animal? Octopus.
Meet Ensign, Alyssa Thompson!
Ensign, Alyssa Thompson
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? I am a Junior Officer. I reported here May 20th of last year. I am the Navigation Officer and Safety Officer. I am an ensign, so I do all of the navigational planning. I also drive the ship.
Have you had much experience working at sea? I have been at sea with the NOAA Corps for over a year now.
Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? On the bridge, driving the ship.
What is your educational background? I went to Virginia Tech. I earned my undergraduate degree in Biology/Animal Sciences. I took a lot of Fisheries classes, too. I interned in Florida researching stingrays and general marine biology with the University of Florida.
What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? Probably radar. I could not live without the radar. It shows you all of your contacts, your targets, especially in the fog up here in the Northeast. Radar is a wonderful tool because there are times you can’t see anything. Sometimes we have only a half mile visibility, and so the radar will pick up contacts to help you maneuver best.
What is your favorite marine animal? Dolphins. I love dolphins, always have.
Meet ENS, Lola Ajilore!
ENS, Lola Ajilore
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter?
I am a NOAA Corps Junior Officer. I joined NOAA in July of 2016. I work with navigation, and I am the secondary Environmental Compliance Officer.
Have you had much experience working at sea? Not yet. I have only been at sea for one month.
What is your educational background? I earned my undergraduate degree in Environmental Policy from Virginia Commonwealth University. I have a master’s in Environmental Science from John Hopkins University.
What is most challenging about your work? It is a challenge learning to drive a ship. It is much different from a car, especially because there are no brakes. I also miss being around my family. You miss out on a lot of special events like birthdays when you work at sea.
What is your favorite marine animal? Dolphins!
Meet Ensign, Mike Fuller!
Ensign, Mike Fuller
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? I am an Augmenting Junior Officer on Gordon Gunter for the time being until I head off to my permanent duty station.
Have you had much experience working at sea? Not in this position. I did have some research experience when I was at the University of Miami.
Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? Most of my work is on the bridge standing watch and operating the actual ship itself—general ship driving and operations.
What is your educational/training background? Those who decide to do the NOAA Corps are required to have a science background. My background is in Marine Science and Biology. I studied a lot of invertebrates in university. After university I went to a 19-week training course where the NOAA Corps trains alongside the Coast Guard learning about different maritime regulations and standard operating procedures.
What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? From a very broad standpoint the tool we use regularly are our navigational charts. You can’t do anything without those. That’s how we setup the entire cruise. It gives us all the information we need to know for safe sailing.
What is your favorite marine animal? There’s so many, it’s hard to pick. My favorite would have to be a species of crinoid that you find in really old rocks. They are a really cool invertebrate.
Meet Ensign, Mary Claire Youpel!
Ensign, Mary Claire Youpel
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? I am the newest Junior Officer aboard the Gordon Gunter. I just reported; this is my first sea assignment.
Have you had much experience working at sea? Limited. I did research at Louisiana State University during grad school. My lab worked on Red Snapper research in the Gulf of Mexico. This is my first time going out to sea with NOAA.
Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? I work in the bridge or the pilot house. This is where we drive the ship.
What is your educational background? I have a bachelor’s of science from the University of Illinois-Champaign in Environmental Science. I have a master’s of science in Oceanography and Coastal Studies from Louisiana State University. I also have a master’s of Public Administration from Louisiana State University.
What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? Radar, because it helps us navigate safely on our track lines.
What is your favorite marine animal? The Great White Shark.
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla)
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) with a fish in its talons
For my final glossary of new terms and phrases, I would like to share ways to say goodbye. It has been difficult for me to find parting words for all of those I have worked with and got to know the past 10 days. If you cannot think of one way to say goodbye, try 10!
See you later.
Did You Know?
The NOAA Corps traces its roots to the former U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, which dates back to 1807 and President Thomas Jefferson. In 1970, NOAA was created to develop a coordinated approach to oceanographic and atmospheric research and subsequent legislation converted the commissioned officer corps to the NOAA Corps. [Source — NOAA Corps] https://www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/noaa-corps/about
Mission: Spring Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) Survey (Plankton and Hydrographic Data)
Geographic Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 3, 2017
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Sky: Scattered Clouds
Visibility: 12 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 270°W
Wind Speed: 8 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 2-3 Feet
Swell Wave: 1-3 Feet
Barometric Pressure: 1009.5 Millibars
Sea Water Temperature: 10.2°C
Air Temperature: 11°C
Science and Technology Log
Here I am with a canister of plankton we collected from the bongo nets.
You may have begun to notice that there are several methods of sampling plankton. Each technique is used several times a day at the sampling stations. The baby bongo nets collect the same type plankton as the large bongos. The primary difference is that the samples from the baby bongos are preserved in ethanol, rather than formalin. Chief Scientist, David Richardson explained that ethanol is being used more and more as a preservative because the solution allows scientists to test specimens’ genetics. Studying the genetics of plankton samples gives researchers a greater understanding of the ocean’s biodiversity. Genetics seeks to understand the process of trait inheritance from parents to offspring, including the molecular structure and function of genes, gene behavior in the context of a cell or organism, gene distribution, and variation and change in populations.
Jars and jars of plankton samples ready to be studied.
The big bongos use formalin to preserve plankton samples. Formalin has been used by scientists for decades, mainly because the preservative makes it easier for labs to study the samples. Today’s scientists continue to use formalin because it lets them compare their most recent sampling data to that from years ago. This presents a clearer picture of how marine environments have or have not changed.
Every so often, we use smaller mesh nets for the baby bongos which can catch the smallest of zooplanktons. The specimens from these special bongo nets are sent to CMarZ which stands for Census of Marine Zooplankton. CMarZ are scientists and students interested in zooplankton from around the world who are working toward a taxonomically comprehensive assessment of biodiversity of animal plankton throughout the world ocean. CMarZ samples are also preserved in ethanol. The goal of this organization is to produce a global assessment of marine zooplankton biodiversity, including accurate and complete information on species diversity, biomass, biogeographical distribution, and genetic diversity. [Source — Census of Marine Zooplankton]. Their website is incredible! They have images galleries of living plankton and new species that have been discovered by CMarZ scientists.
Another interesting project that Chief Scientist, David Richardson shared with me is the Census of Marine Life. The Census of Marine Life was a 10-year international effort that assessed the diversity (how many different kinds), distribution (where they live), and abundance (how many) of marine life—a task never before attempted on this scale. During their 10 years of discovery, Census scientists found and formally described more than 1,200 new marine species. [Source —Census of Marine Life] The census has a webpage devoted to resources for educators and the public. Contents include: videos and images galleries, maps and visualizations, a global marine life database, and links to many other resources.
Plankton samples are preserved in jars with water and formalin.
It is incredibly important that we have institutes like CMarZ, the Census of Marin Life, and the Sea Fisheries Institute in Poland where samples from our EcoMon Survey are sent. Most plankton are so small that you see them best through a microscope. At the lab in Poland, scientists remove the fish and eggs from all samples, as well as select invertebrates. These specimens are sent back to U.S. where the data is entered into models. The information is used to help form fishing regulations. This division of NOAA is called the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NOAA Fisheries. NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of the nation’s ocean resources and their habitat. The organization provide vital services for the nation: productive and sustainable fisheries, safe sources of seafood, the recovery and conservation of protected resources, and healthy ecosystems—all backed by sound science and an ecosystem-based approach to management. [Source —NOAA Fisheries]
Vertical CTD Cast
In addition to collecting plankton samples, we periodically conduct vertical CTD casts. This is a standard oceanographic sampling technique that tells scientists about dissolved inorganic carbon, ocean water nutrients, the levels of chlorophyll, and other biological and chemical parameters.
The CTD’s Niskin bottles trap water at different depths in the ocean for a wide-range of data.
The instrument is a cluster of sensors which measure conductivity, temperature, and pressure. Depth measurements are derived from measurement of hydrostatic pressure, and salinity is measured from electrical conductivity. Sensors are arranged inside a metal or resin housing, the material used for the housing determining the depth to which the CTD can be lowered. From the information gathered during CTD casts, researchers can investigate how factors of the ocean are related as well as the variation of organisms that live in the ocean.
Here’s how a vertical CTD cast works. First, the scientists select a location of interest (one of the stations for the leg of the survey). The ship travels to that position and stays as close to the same spot as possible depending on the weather as the CTD rosette is lowered through the water, usually to within a few meters of the bottom, then raised back to the ship. By lowering the CTD close to the bottom, then moving the ship while cycling the package up and down only through the bottom few hundred meters, a far greater density of data can be obtained. This technique was dubbed a CTD cast and has proven to be an efficient and effective method for mapping and sampling hydrothermal plumes. [Source —NOAA]
Survey Tech, LeAnn Conlon helps recover the CTD.
During the vertical CTD cast, I am in charge of collecting water samples from specified Niskin bottles on the rosette. The Niskin bottles collected water at different levels: surface water, maximum depth, and the chlorophyll maximum where the greatest amount of plankton are usually found. I take the collected seawater to the lab where a mechanism filters the water, leaving only the remainder plankton. The plankton from the water contains chlorophyll which a lab back on land tests to determine the amount of chlorophyll at different water depths. This gives researchers insight about the marine environment in certain geographic locations at certain times of the year.
Meet the Science Party
Meet Chief Scientist, David Richardson!
David Richardson planning our cruise with Operations Officer, Libby Mackie.
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? I am the Chief Scientist for this 10 day cruise. A large part of the Chief Scientist’s role is to prioritize the research that will happen on a cruise within the designated time period. Adverse weather, mechanical difficulties, and many other factors can alter the original plans for a cruise requiring that decisions be made about what can be accomplished and what is a lower priority. One part of doing this effectively is to ensure that there is good communication among the different people working on the ship.
What is your educational/working background?I went to college at Cornell University with a major in Natural Resources. After that I had a number of different jobs before enrolling in Graduate School at the University of Miami. For my graduate research I focused on the spawning environment of sailfish and marlin in the Straits of Florida. I then came up to Rhode Island in 2008, and for the last 10 years have been working as a Fisheries Biologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service.
What is the general purpose of the EcoMon Survey? The goal of the Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) surveys is to collect oceanographic measurements and information on the distribution and abundance of lower trophic level species including zooplankton. The collections also include fish eggs and larvae which can be used to evaluate where and when fish are spawning. Over the years additional measurements and collections have been included on the EcoMon surveys to more fully utilize ship time. Seabirds and Marine Mammals are being identified and counted on our ship transits, phytoplankton is also being imaged during the cruise. Finally, the EcoMon cruises serve as a means to monitor ocean acidification off the northeast United States.
What do you enjoy most about your work? I really enjoy pursuing scientific studies in which I can integrate field work, lab work and analytical work. As I have progressed in my career the balance of the work I do has shifted much more towards computer driven analysis and writing. These days, I really enjoy time spent in the lab or the field.
What is most challenging about your job?I imagine the challenge I face is the similar to what many scientists face. There are many possible scientific studies we can do in our region that affect the scientific advise used to manage fisheries. The challenge is prioritizing and making time for those studies that are most important, while deprioritizing some personally interesting work that may be less critical.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science?By the end of high school I was pretty certain that I wanted to pursue a career in science. Early in college I settled on the idea of pursuing marine science and ecology, but it was not until the end of college that I decided I wanted to focus my work on issues related to fish and fisheries.
What is your favorite marine animal? Sailfish, which I did much of my graduate work on, remains one of my favorite marine animals. I have worked on them at all life stages from capturing the early life stages smaller than an inch to tagging the adults. They are really fascinating and beautiful animals to see. However, now that I live in Rhode Island I have little opportunity to work on sailfish which tend to occupy more southern waters.
In terms of local animals, one of my favorites is sand lance which can be found very near to shore throughout New England. These small fish are a critical part of the food web, and also have a really unique behavior of burying in the sand when disturbed, or even for extended periods over the course of the year. In many respects sand lance have received far less scientific attention than they deserve in our region.
Meet CTD Specialist, Tamara Holzwarth-Davis!
CTD Specialist, Tamara Holzwarth-Davis
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? CTD Specialist which means I install, maintain, and operate the CTD. The CTD is an electronic oceanographic instrument. We have two versions of the CTD on board the ship. We have larger instrument with a lot more sensors on it. It has water bottles called Niskin water samplers, and they collect water samples that we use on the ship to run tests.
How long have you been working at sea? I worked for six months at sea when I was in college for NOAA Fisheries on the Georges Bank. That was 30 years ago.
What is your educational background? I have a Marine Science degree with a concentration in Biology.
What is your favorite part about your work? I definitely love going out to sea and being on the ship with my co-workers. I also get to meet a lot of new people with what I do.
What is most challenging about your work? My instruments are electronic, and we are always near the sea which can cause corrosion and malfunctions. When things go wrong you have to troubleshoot. Sometimes it is an easy fix and sometimes you have to call the Electronic Technician for support.
What is your favorite marine animal? My favorite animal is when we bring up the plankton nets and we catch sea angels or sea butterflies. They are tiny, swimming sea slugs that look gummy and glow fluorescent orange.
Meet Seabird and Marine Mammal Observer, Glen Davis!
Seabird and Marine Mammal Observer, Glen Davis
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? I am on the science team. I am an avian and marine mammal observer.
What is your educational/working background? I have a bachelor’s in science. I have spent much of my 20-year career doing field work with birds and marine mammals all around the world.
Do you have much experience working at sea? Yes. I have put in about 8,000 hours at sea. Going out to sea is a real adventure, but you are always on duty or on call. It’s exciting, but at the same time there are responsibilities. Spending time at sea is really special work.
What is most challenging about your work? Keeping your focus at times. You are committing yourself to a lifestyle as an animal observer. You have to provide as much data to the project as you can.
Where do you do most of your work on board NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter?I am going to be up on the bridge level where the crew who pilots the vessel resides or above that which is called the flying bridge. On Gordon Gunter that is 13.7 meters above sea level which is a good vantage point to see birds and marine mammals.
What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? My binoculars. It is always around my neck. It is an eight power magnification and it helps me identify the birds and sea life that I see from the flying bridge. I also have to record my information in the computer immediately after I see them, so the software knows the exact place and time I saw each animal.
What is your favorite bird? Albatrosses are my favorite birds. The largest albatross is called a Wandering/Snowy Albatross. The Snowy Albatross has the longest wingspan of any bird and its the longest lived bird. This bird mates for life and raises one chick every 3-5 years which they care for much like people care for their own babies.
Meet Seabird and Marine Mammal Observer, Nicholas Metheny!
Seabird and Marine Mammal Observer, Nicholas Metheny
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? Primary seabird/marine mammal observer.
What is your educational background?I have my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science with a minor in Marine Biology from the University of New England in Maine.
What has been your best working experience? That’s a tough one because I have had so many different experiences where I have learned a lot over the years. I have been doing field work for the past 11 years. Each has taught me something that has led me to the next position. The job I cherish the most is the trip I took down to Antarctica on a research cruise for six weeks. That was an amazing experience and something I would advocate for people to see for themselves.
What do you enjoy most about being a bird/marine mammal observer? The excitement of never knowing what you are going to see next. Things can pop up anywhere. You get to ask the questions of, “how did this animal get here,” “why is this animal here,” and correlate that to different environmental conditions.
What is most challenging about your work? You are looking at birds from a distance and you are not always able to get a positive ID. Sometimes you’re just not seeing enough detail or it disappears out of view from your binoculars as it moves behind a wave or dives down into the water. For marine mammals all you see is the blow and that’s it. So, it is a little frustrating not being able to get an ID on everything, but you do the best you can.
What is your favorite bird? That’s like choosing your favorite child! I have a favorite order of bird. It’s the Procellariiformes which are the tube-nosed birds. This includes albatross, shearwater, storm petrels, and the fulmars.
Meet Survey Tech, LeAnn Conlon!
Survey Tech, LeAnn Conlon
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? I am a student volunteer. I help deploy the equipment and collect the samples.
Do you have much experience working at sea? This is my second 10-day trip. I did the second leg of the EcoMon Survey last year as well.
What is your educational background? I am currently a PhD candidate at the University of Maine where I am studying ocean currents and how water moves. I also have my master’s degree in Marine Science, and my undergraduate degree is in Physics.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in science? I have always wanted to study the oceans. I think I was at least in first grade when I was telling people I wanted to be a marine scientist.
What do you enjoy most about your work on board NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? My favorite thing is being at sea, working hard, and enjoying the ocean.
Where will you be doing most of your work? Most of the work is going to be working with the equipment deploying. I will be on the aft end of the ship.
What is your favorite marine animal? Humpback whale, but it is really hard to pick just one.
Meet Survey Tech, Emily Markowitz!
Survey Tech, Emily Markowitz
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? I am a volunteer. I did my undergraduate and graduate work in Marine Science at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York. My graduate work is in Fisheries Research.
Where will you be doing most of your work on the ship?I will be doing the night shift. That is from midnight to noon every day. I will be doing the nutrients test which helps the scientists figure out what is in the water that might attract different creatures.
Do you have much experience working at sea? Yes, actually. When I was 19, I spent two weeks on a similar trip off the coast of Oregon. We were looking for Humboldt Squid. I also worked on the university’s research vessel as a crew member on one of their ocean trawl surveys.
What are your hobbies? I love being outside. I enjoy hiking and being on the water sailing.
What is your favorite marine animal? The Humboldt Squid.
Meet Survey Tech, Maira Gomes!
Survey Tech, Maira Gomes
What is your position on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter? My position on Gordon Gunter is a volunteer. I got this opportunity from Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) where I have recently just graduated in January 2017 with my associates in Liberal Arts. Professor McNamara (Marianne McNamara) one of my professors at SCCC, forwarded me the email that was sent from Harvey Walsh looking for volunteers to work on Gordon Gunter for the Ecosystem Monitoring Survey. They had Leg 1 which was May 16th May -May 26th and Leg 2 May 29th-June 7th. I never had been out to sea! I got super excited and signed up for both legs!
Where do you do most of your work aboard the ship? On the ship I do mostly taking care of the Bongo Nets, CTD, and CTD Rosette. With the Bongo baby and large nets I help the crew to hook them up on a cable to set out to the ocean to retrieve the data from the CTD and all kinds of plankton that get caught in the nets. Once it comes back to the boat we hose the nets down and collect all the plankton and put them in jars filled with chemicals to preserve them so we can send them back to different labs. The Rosette is my favorite! We send out the Rosette with 12 Niskin bottles empty into the water. They come back up filled with water. We use this machine to collect data for nutrients, Chlorophyll, and certain types of Carbon. We run tests in the dry lab and preserve the samples to be shipped out to other labs for more tests.
What is your educational/working background? I just finished my associates in Liberal Arts at SCCC in January. In the Fall 2017 I will be attending University of New Haven as a junior working towards my bachelor degree in their Marine Affairs Program.
Have you had much experience at sea? Nope, zero experience out at sea! Which was one of the reasons why I was kind of nervous after I realized I signed up for both legs of the trip. I am glad I did. I am gaining so much experience on this trip!
What do you enjoy most about your work? It would be the experience I am gaining and the amazing views of the ocean!
What is most challenging about your job? The most challenging part of working on the ship would be the one-hour gap between some of the stations we encounter on our watch. It is not enough time to take a nap but enough time to get some reading in. It can be kind of hard to stay awake.
What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without? Tool I could not live without working on the ship would probably be the chart that has all our stations located.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science or an ocean career? Ha! This is a great question! So it all started, as I was a little girl. I always wanted to be a veterinarian and work with animals. Once I was in fifth grade my teacher inspired me to be a teacher like herself, a Special Education teacher. I felt strongly with wanting to pursue a career in that field. It was not until my second year in college when I had to take a Lab course to fulfill my requirements for the lab credits, that I took a Marine Biology Lab. Once I was influenced and aware of this side of the world more in depth, I had a change of heart. Not only that but my professor, Professor Lynch (Pamala Lynch) also influenced me on changing my major to Marine Biology. I knew from the start I always wanted to be involved with animals but never knew exactly how, but once I took her class I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my career. With that being said, my goal is to be able to work with sharks someday and help to protect them and teach everyone the real truth behind their way of life and prove you cannot always believe what you see on TV.
What are your hobbies? I really love to line dance! I line dance about at least three times a week! I absolutely love it! I have made so many friends and learned so many really cool dances! I have been doing it about two years and through the experience of getting out of my shell I gain a whole new family from the country scene back at home! I also, love catching UFC fights on TV with my friends!
What is your favorite marine animal? I have multiple favorite marine animals. My top two picks would be sharks and sea turtles!
The Work Continues (Thursday, June 1)
After lunch the fog began to dissipate, letting in rays of sunshine. I could see the horizon once again! You do not realize the benefits of visibility until it is gone. Yet, even with the ability to see all of my surroundings, my eyes were met with same object in every direction—water! Despite the fact that the ocean consists of wave swells, ripples, and beautiful hues of blue, I longed to see something new. Finally, I spotted something on the horizon. In the distance, I could faintly make out the silhouette of two fishing boats. I was relieved to set eyes on these vessels. It might not seem like anything special to most people but when you are more than 100 miles from land, it is a relief to know that you are not alone.
Work during my shift is a distraction from the isolation I sometimes feel out at sea. When it is time for a bongo or CTD station, my mind becomes preoccupied with the process. My brain blocks all worries during those 30 minutes. Nonetheless, as quickly as a station begins, it ends even faster. Then we are left waiting for the next station which sometimes is only 20 minutes and other times is more than two hours away. The waiting is not so bad. In between stations I am able to speak with crew members and the science team on a variety of issues: research, ship operations, and life back on land. Every person on board Gordon Gunter is an expert at what they do. They take their work very seriously, and do it exceptionally well. Still, we like a good laugh every now and then.
TGIF! (Friday, June 2)
Members of the Science Party stay busy collecting samples from the bongo nets.
At home, Friday means it is practically the weekend! The weekend is when I get to spend time with family, run errands, go shopping, or just hang around the house. For those who work at sea like NOAA Corps and NOAA scientists, the weekend is just like any other day. The crew works diligently day and night, during holidays, and yes, on the weekends. I can tell from first-hand experience that all personnel on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter are dedicated and high-spirited people. Even when the weather is clear and sunny like it was today, they continue their duties work without wavering. NOAA crew are much like the waves of the sea. The waves in the Northeast Atlantic are relentless. They don’t quit—no matter the conditions. Waves are created by energy passing through water, causing it to move in a circular motion [Source —NOAA]. NOAA crew also have an energy passing through them. Whether it be the science, life at sea, adventure, love for their trade, or obligations back home, personnel aboard Gordon Gunter do not stop.
Today, we left Georges Bank and entered the Gulf of Maine where we will stay for the remainder of the cruise. The seabird and marine mammal observers had a productive day spotting a variety of wildlife. There have been sightings of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins, Ocean Sunfish, and Right Whales to name a few. Even though I did not get photographs of all that was seen, I am optimistic about observing new and exciting marine wildlife in the days to come.
Cod (Gadus morhua)
Flounder (Paralichthys dentatus)
Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)
American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliates)
Comb Jellies (Ctenophora)
Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)
Pilot Whale (Globicephala)
Plankton: the passively floating or weakly swimming usually minute animal and plant life of a body of water
Phytoplankton: planktonic plant life
Zooplankton: plankton composed of animals
Larval Fish: part of the zooplankton that eat smaller plankton. Larval fish are themselves eaten by larger animals
Crustacean: any of a large group of mostly water animals (as crabs, lobsters, and shrimps) with a body made of segments, a tough outer shell, two pairs of antennae, and limbs that are jointed
Biodiversity: biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals
Genetics: the scientific study of how genes control the characteristics of plants and animals
Did You Know?
Phytoplankton samples from the bongo nets.
Through photosynthesis, phytoplankton use sunlight, nutrients, carbon dioxide, and water to produce oxygen and nutrients for other organisms. With 71% of the Earth covered by the ocean, phytoplankton are responsible for producing up to 50% of the oxygen we breathe. These microscopic organisms also cycle most of the Earth’s carbon dioxide between the ocean and atmosphere. [Source — National Geographic].
Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean from San Diego, CA to San Francisco, CA
Date: April 8, 2017
Science and Technology Log
“Water, Water, Everywhere. Nor any drop to drink.”
Sunrise somewhere over the Pacific Ocean
If you think about a famous quote about the ocean, this one might be one of the first you would think of.It is from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I don’t know the first time I heard that quote, but it gave me a view of the ocean as a foreboding place. People like to use quotes to capture a thought or a feeling or an idea that someone else said near perfect. It is a way of remembering ideas of others and being remembered. It is also a way to communicate a deep truth in a memorable fashion. If said well, the quote rings in someone’s head.
The greatest technology a scientist has is their ability to communicate to the public their science. All the measurements in the world, the most exacting procedures, and the best control of variables die on the hard drive if they are not effectively communicated and shared with others. Said well, it will ring in the head of the recipient.
“We are what we do repeatedly. Excellence therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”
Aristotle * see footnote
If you have a career or are retired, you can think back to the path that took you to one of the most important aspect of your life. The people, opportunities, experiences, dreams, or something else that inspired you to take the career you chose. If you are in school, you are being exposed to influential people, ideas, and values that will shape your life. I have to say, the best aspect of this fisheries expedition has been the amazing and inspirational people I have met along the way. The group of people that were on the Reuben Lasker cover a large span of skill sets that are critical to run a long term research trip. From the NOAA Corps, to the ship operations, to maintaining the complex systems of the ship, to deploying the scientific equipment from the deck, to the planning, conducting, and evaluating the results of the science, everyone brings to the table their invaluable contributions. I have not thus far been associated with such an endeavor and I thank everyone for sharing their expertise with me. I asked the scientists I worked with three simple questions to get an understanding of the events that took them down the path to their career with NOAA. I’m sure you can relate to these stories and have stories of your own that have brought you to your career. If you still have many big decisions ahead of you, maybe you can use this as a sign post to reflect upon as you move along your path. Below is a picture of the scientists I had the privilege to learn from, work with, and share an amazing experience.
Scientist (left to right) Dave Griffith, Kevin Stierhoff, Bev, Lenora, Bill Watson, Sue Manion, Chris Tait (Teacher at Sea) & Megan Human
How did you become a NOAA scientist?
I was working at Hubbs Marine Research as a laboratory manager prior to coming to NOAA. A group of us had started what turned out to be a long term project combining aquaculture and natural population enhancement known as OREHAP. One of the aspects of the OREHAP project was describing the micro-habitats of Mission Bay and San Diego Bay. Many days were spent in the field sampling the various habitats of each bay. One of the scientists that would join us on occasion was Sharon Kramer. At the time Sharon was working on her PhD from Scripps and was also an employee of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Sharon alerted me of an opening at the center working for the Coastal Fisheries Resources Division headed up by Rich Charter, one of the best supervisors she had known, and I agree. The rest is history. I’ve now been with NOAA for 27 years; most of them spent at sea and have experienced sights that many people may only read about. No regrets whatsoever.
What do you like best about your career?
This is probably one of the easier questions. What I like and cherish most about my career is the people I have had the privilege to know and work with. Not only some of the best scientists in the world but just good people. The world of marine science, especially fishery science, is a relatively small community. They become your family. Throw into the mix that I also get to do something that I have wanted to do since high school and I realize that it wasn’t a bad choice.
What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?
In your early academic life, keep an open mind. There are so many aspects to science that you may not realize until you begin your formal education. Take a look at everything. I spent a short time at a city college exploring various avenues before making my commitment to a four year university. If you can, volunteer. It is definitely not time wasted. For a career in science, earn the highest degree or degrees you possibly can. And lastly, a major component of a career in science is being able to communicate. Learn to write well. I have found that an excellent way to improve your writing is to read. Read everything. Read novels, magazines, journals, newspapers, whatever you can get your hands on and never stop.
How did you become a NOAA scientist?
Growing up, I loved mysteries and figuring out why things worked the way they did. I was also fascinated by the marine environment. Having learned about NOAA and its missions from relatives, I participated in a co-op program while in college where I worked at a NOAA Fisheries lab. That work experience helped me realize that this was a field I would like to make a career.
What do you like best about your career?
I would definitely have to say the challenge of the work. The marine environment is so dynamic and ever changing and evolving. Working with so many amazing scientists to better understand this environment and the organisms in it is very fulfilling.
What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?
If this is a career path a student is interested in, I recommend looking into volunteer and internship positions. These experiences help get an understanding of the work in this career and if it’s a right fit for you. It also helps to build your experience and make contacts in this field.
How did you become a NOAA scientist?
I graduated from Michigan State University with a BS in Fisheries Biology. After graduation, I joined Peace Corps and worked for 3 years on the aquaculture program in the Dominican Republic. Upon my return to the states, I applied for and was accepted as a sea-going technician for NOAA at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in San Diego. I have been an employee here since 1989.
What do you like best about your career?
What I like best about my job is the variety of tasks I perform. I was looking for a career where my job was outdoors and physical. I spend 1/3 of the year working on fisheries research vessels. I process trawl catches and assist in oceanographic sampling. In the past, I have been a marine mammal observer on a tuna boat, and have tagged sharks.
The rest of the time I work in an office processing data and prepping gear for our next research survey.
What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?
My advice for someone who would like to follow a similar career path would be to go beyond a BS and get a Master’s. I recommend taking all the math classes, computer classes and writing classes that are available to supplement whatever field of Science one chooses.
How did you become a NOAA scientist?
After receiving undergraduate degrees in oceanography and zoology from the University of Washington I went to the University of Hawaii to do a master’s degree working on distributional ecology of fish eggs and larvae. While at UH I visited the larval fish laboratory at the NMFS Southwest Fisheries Center in La Jolla, California, to meet the staff and learn what I could to improve my skill in identifying fish eggs and larvae. I subsequently stayed in touch with the SWC larval fish lab while working first at UH, then for North Carolina State University doing biological monitoring studies at a coastal nuclear power plant as well as ecological studies of fish and shrimp larvae in an estuary and adjacent salt marshes, and then in southern California for a consulting company doing a wide variety of mainly coastal biological studies. While at the consulting company I received a call from the supervisor of the SWC larval fish group letting me know that a vacancy was coming up in the group and to keep an eye out for the job announcement if I was interested. When the announcement came out I applied, and got the job. Interestingly, the person I replaced was the person I started my larval fish career with in Hawaii 20 years earlier.
What do you like best about your career?
I like fish larvae, so having the opportunity to go to sea to collect samples, and being able to spend part of my time in the laboratory looking at fish eggs and larvae through a microscope often are as much entertainment as work. In addition to the routine sample processing that we do in support of biomass estimations for commercially important fishes, we regularly conduct analyses to look at how the California Current ecosystem functions from a fish perspective. We can do this because most fish species in our area have planktonic larval stages, so with one set of samples we can look at fish assemblages ranging from deep-sea meso- and bathypelagic fishes to rocky reef and shorefishes. In recent years we have added genetic tools to improve our taxonomic resolution, and have added squids to our repertoire. Most of the studies done in my lab are group efforts, in many cases in cooperation with universities and other NOAA Fisheries labs.
What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?
I always tell student interns in our lab that if they plan to be scientists, they need to pay attention in English classes. Research isn’t really done until it’s published, and if a manuscript is poorly written the likelihood is that it will be rejected by scientific journals. Writing is actually one of the more important skills to develop for someone interested in a career in science. Beyond paying attention in English classes, a postgraduate degree is almost a requirement these days to have any chance at doing independent research. Getting some real world work experience between undergrad and graduate school can be useful to help in setting a career course that you will be happy with, for example when I graduated from UW I planned to specialize in algology, but during a postgraduate internship working on the effects of tritium exposure on early development of rainbow trout, I discovered that I liked fish better and have been doing that ever since.
How did you become a NOAA scientist?
My career path with NOAA began during my junior year in college. I had been volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium for several years and decided to apply for an internship opportunity that was collaboration between the University of Washington and the NWFSC working with phytoplankton. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work with plankton, but I ended up loving it and was offered a contracting position when my internship was up. In 2014 I ended up moving to San Diego, and thanks to some connections I had from the NWFSC I was referred to a position working with ichthyoplankton (larval stage of fishes).
What do you like best about your career?
I love getting to work with fish and see all the diversity the ocean has to offer. I‘ve also had the opportunity to conduct an egg rearing experiment where I get to raise fish eggs to larvae at sea and in the lab. While it presents many challenges, it is such a great feeling to be able to do hands research in the field. Once you start working on one question, you realize there are so many unknowns out there and it is exciting to get to be a part of a team that is trying to find the answers.
What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?
The best advice I could give to someone who wants to get into a career with marine sciences is to volunteer. There are usually many opportunities associated with local aquariums, NOAA or University vessels, and research laboratories. These are a great way to experience the different avenues of marine science and provide a lot of valuable experiences and connections with individuals in the field. It is also a great way to find what areas you are most passionate about as well as discovering what fields aren’t the best fits.
Contemplating a successful fishing voyage as we sail under the Golden Gate Bridge.
As the boat motors under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the port of San Francisco, I think about how this experience will impact me. How can I take what I have learned and effectively communicate to my students the importance of researching how our planet functions? How will the planet change in the face of growing stressors from impacts of human population growth? How can I motivate others around me to be mindful of our impacts and to work towards a more sustainable future? Well, with any great study, you generally end up with more questions than answers. I thank my friends from the Reuben Lasker for helping me communicate to others about the ocean, their science careers, and marine sciences in general.
Arrival to port at the Exploratorium in San Francisco!
For hope and encouragement I turned to my students for quotes of their own.
What quote would you use to describe your perspective on the world as you finish up school?
“For me, this class helped me decide to go into environmental studies. I always cared about the environment, but I realized that the more I know, the more empowered I will be to make a difference.” Abi Brown NFHS ‘17
“I am going into the heath field so it was very interesting knowing about all of the toxins that are having consequences on our health.” Ashley Parkinson NFHS ‘17
“This class really opened my eyes to the environmental issues I wasn’t all that aware of. I knew that climate change was occurring but I didn’t know all the contributing factors in my daily life could build up and add to global warming. Just being aware has made me change my lifestyle drastically.” Courtney Surovy NFHS ‘17
“Taking this class taught me how large of an impact humans have on the environment. It is hard to believe that just one person can make a change, but the more you know, the more you can take action to save the environment.” Emily Glueck NFHS ‘17
“After taking this class, I found myself constantly going home and sharing with my family what I learned. I wanted them to become as passionate as I became. This class has sparked my interest and motivated me to be more conscious of my actions and look at how all possible results can impact the Earth.” Maya Scocozza NFHS ‘17
“This class has given me a newfound love for the world that I live in, inspiring me to help improve the quality of the environment for current and future generations by doing even simple things such as recycling.” Olivia Hanisch NFHS ‘17
“As an incoming freshman to UConn’s MEM program, a dual business and engineering major, this class will forever impact my actions in the product design industry. Every step I take in my career will include consideration on how to engineer a product that is both marketable as well as environmentally sustainable.” Hailey Altobelli NFHS ‘17
“Taking AP Environmental Science allowed me to evaluate the destructive choices humans, including myself, make on a daily basis and how it amounts to significant impacts on our global climate and the surrounding ecosystems. Even something as little as leaving your lights on in an empty room or leaving water running while brushing your teeth can cause negative impacts on the environment. When individuals refuse to change their smaller habits on smaller issues, it becomes difficult for widespread change to occur. The class opened my eyes to how little changes make a big impact.” Matt Trewartha NFHS ‘17
“I will be pursuing a Mechanical Engineering degree via Rensselaer. A successful career to me will be one in which I have assisted in progressing the world environmentally and technologically.” Matt Sousa NFHS ‘17
“By taking this class, I have realized how much everything impacts the environment. From the cosmetics we use to the food we purchase, we greatly impact the earth’s land and its resources. By working on making sustainable choices, we can make a big impact on the earth.” Hadley Starr NFHS ‘18
“When environmentally friendly energy options become economically beneficial to large corporations and industry, global sustainability will become a tangible goal.” Kyle Van Vlack NFHS ‘17
“One thing I learned from this class is that little thing you do has an effect. Every bottle you throw out and every shower you take does affects the environment.” Leah Anderson NFHS ’17
“As someone who is interested in the field of policy making, this class greatly informed me regarding the hidden dangers in our treatment of the planet. I feel like I am much better educated about the harmful consequences of climate change, pollution, and many other topics.” Matt Rossi NFHS ‘17
“By taking AP Environmental Science, I have become more aware of the destructive effect humanity has on the planet, and thus the necessity of advocating for sustainability. If we wish to preserve the environment, we all must educate ourselves about the severity of climate change and do whatever we can to minimize the negative impact of our lifestyle; even the actions of one person can help make a difference. By becoming catalysts for positive change, we as a society will be one step closer to achieving harmony between humans and the environment.” Nicole Cennamo ‘17
“This class has helped me develop an understanding of the natural world which we live in, and as I move towards studying Biology in college, I believe I have the resources necessary to be successful and have an impact in the world.” Josh Sproule NFHS ‘17
“As a future Political Science major, learning about the massive environmental destruction caused by humans has taught me that fixing the environment should not be politicized, and we should all be committed to doing what is right for the environment.” Mike DaSilva NFHS ‘17
“After this class, I have grown to be able to be more conscientious about my actions and how I affect the world. I care more for the animals and their environment and now have a passion for protecting them as much as I can.” Emily O’Toole NFHS ‘17
“This class has encouraged me to take responsibility in helping to save our planet. I learned that everyday things such as long, hot showers or leaving the lights on actually contribute to the global problems we see today. Taking this class this year has definitely inspired me to take action in helping our planet survive.” – Jackson Lathrop NFHS ’17
“I have gained a lot of knowledge through this class that has helped me to fully understand the impact humans have on the environment, and how to prevent further harm to our world. As I plan to become a business major, this knowledge I now have will impact the choices I will make and influence how I live and go about my daily life, always keeping in mind my environmental footprint.” – Noah Alviti NFHS ’17
*footnote: This quote is actually a misquote of Aristotle. It was used by Matt Light of the New England Patriots at his retirement speech. Will Durant deserves the actual quote from his book “Ethics and the Nature of Happiness” where he paraphrased Aristotle’s words from “Nicomachaen Ethics.”
Weather Data is not available for this post because I am writing from the Biloxi/Gulfport Airport.
Tim Martin, Chief Boatswain, aboard the OREGON II, left his home near the Missouri River in Missouri for a life at sea and has never looked back. Like many young people from the Central United States, he joined the Navy as a way to travel and see the rest of the world. He was stationed on Whidbey Island in Washington State and when he left the Navy he became a commercial fisherman working out of Seattle to fish the in Bering Sea from Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
Tim left the west coast and the world of commercial fishing to join NOAA and worked for several years on ships out of NOAA Woods Hole Station in Massachusetts. Eventually, through connections he made on the job, he was able to transfer to the Southeastern Fisheries group. He has worked on several ships, but has been on the OREGON II for 12 years. Tim likes his job for the variety and activity it provides, as well as opportunities to apply his mind to ways to make things work better or more smoothly. He attributes much of the good working atmosphere on the ship to the stability of many crew members who have worked together for years. As a long-time civilian mariner with NOAA he appreciates the importance of believing in what you are doing and being committed to being successful.
But, Tim Martin is not so one dimensional that you can know him as just a mariner. Talking with him I learned that he is a voracious reader with very eclectic tastes in literature. He devours everything from travel accounts to true adventure, biographies, and historical accounts of exploration and settlement of the world. He has traveled broadly and uses his reading time to continue to learn about the places he has visited. He is a licensed diver and enjoys the underwater world as much as sailing on the surface of the sea. I was fascinated to learn that he has dived to authentic pirate wrecks…quite a change from his underwater beginnings in the dark and brackish Pascagoula River. Tim is a great example of someone who recognizes that his only limits are the ones he sets for himself. That is a great legacy to leave for his family.
Chris Nichols, Lead Fisherman, got into marine work for the adventures. Growing up he read classics like “Captains Courageous” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” His years as a Boy Scout helped empower him with a can-do attitude that kept him from quitting when things got difficult. After a mediocre high school career and his childhood years in West Palm Beach, Florida, hanging around the docks and fishing, his quest for travel and adventure led him first to commercial fishing and then to join the Navy.
After six years in the service, including training in water rescue, Chris left the Navy and started classes for work in the merchant marine industry. As he worked toward earning his 100 ton master rating he discovered that using math, which had seemed unimportant and boring in high school, was critical for navigation. Applying the things he was studying to real world problems made learning important. The life-style structure of his military years helped him move fairly seamlessly into the shift work that became his routine aboard merchant ships. The travel fed his sense of exploration and adventure.
Now, after 20 years working either on NOAA ships or for companies that contracted with NOAA, Chris still loves his job and his life style. His experience in the merchant marine gave him the background to understand working on ships from the viewpoint of the wheel house and the deck. He patiently explained to me that the job titles of people working on the deck crew are just positions for which eligible Able Bodied Seamen were hired. They are not classification by skill or experience; they are job descriptions. Each survey watch requires 3 crew members on deck to work equipment and support the scientists in deployment and retrieval of lines. Cooperation and communication are the most critical skills needed by everyone on the ship for success in carrying out their mission.
“NOAA has recently been experiencing a lack of interested, qualified applicants,” Chris told me. “I think many young people lack the sense of adventure that makes life at sea attractive.” He certainly demonstrates that desire for adventure: his eyes light up and an infectious grin spreads across his face as he talks about the places he’s been and the places he still wants to go.
The whole deck crew, including Chris Rawley, Mike Conway, Chuck Godwin, and James Rhue, are a lively, hard-working bunch. They do their jobs, they have some fun doing them sometimes, and they like what they are doing. Every time I was around them I could hear John Fogarty’s song “Rambunctious Boy” playing in my head and I ended up smiling and humming along!
The Deck Crew – Chris Nichols, Mike Conway, Tim Martin, James Rhue, and Chris Rawley
Thirty-six years ago Rich Brooks took the advice of his high school math and history teachers and enrolled at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. The strict structure of the Academy helped him develop his study habits and learn the discipline needed to raise from a low C student a B+ student who took pride in his work. He graduated with a degree in Marine Engineering, but spent time as a substitute teacher while deciding where he wanted to go with his career. Currently he holds 3 chief engineer licenses: steam, motor and gasoline and is qualified to operate any watercraft.
Eventually he started working on ships, spending a number of years in the Merchant Marine. He worked on merchant transport ships contracted to our government to support Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Persian Gulf. For 10 years he worked on independent oil tankers on the West Coast, transporting oil and gasoline to and from various ports. He has been a 1st Engineer for NOAA for 2 years.
Rich enjoys the travel and adventure that are part of his career. He likes visiting different cities and has been through both the Suez and Panama Canals in his travels. It has been a long journey around the world from his childhood home in Haverhill, Massachusetts to Mobile, Alabama where he made his home base for the last 25 years. He is proud that his work as an engineer has influenced his son to pursue a career in engineering, following his father’s example of hard work and sacrifice as the way to get ahead in life. Rich hopes to see more young people turn to careers in engineering, knowing as he does that the average age of marine engineers in this country is 58 years which means there will be openings for young people as they complete their training. As for him, when he retires several years in the future he looks forward to moving closer to his father in Florida, going fishing and playing golf.
THE PEOPLE I MISSED INTERVIEWING:
My roommate, Chrissy Stepongzi, is a marine biologist and the person of whom I saw the least on this cruise. She knows her job and was always eager to answer questions. We just did not see each other often to talk because of being on opposite shifts and sharing the room. She slept while I worked and visa-versa. I appreciated her quick smile and well-developed sense of humor and wish we had been able to get better acquainted.
The Night Crew before a shift change – Trey, Chrissy, Lydia, and Toni
Fisherman Mike Conway has been working on ships for a long time. He loves the ocean and loves the travel. His willingness to make sure I learned and got opportunity to see things was really helpful and made me feel welcome. Mike was always willing to grab my iPad and take pictures so I could be in them and he was the one that made sure I got to see the sky at night and appreciate the beauty of being on the ocean in one more way.
Fisherman Chris Rawley, quick to grin, but slow to talk, took some effort to get to know. Chris was a fisherman on our shift and helped with everything from running the crane to pulling lines to wrestling sharks. He was “born under a wandering star,” and loves to travel. He’s a gypsy at heart.
James Rhue is another fisherman working on the deck crew. He too was with the night shift so we didn’t cross paths often. When we did talk he could always answer my questions and made me feel welcome.
Mike, Chris, and James are pictured in the Deck Crew photo above.
Mary Stratford was filling in on the deck crew this cruise. She lives in Puerto Rico where she is a ceramic artist, but much of her life has been spent working in jobs that allow her to see the world. Mary was helpful and friendly and always interesting to talk to.
2nd Engineer Darnell Doe, the quiet, friendly guy I ate breakfast with most mornings. We shared a little conversation and watch the news over a quick bite to eat and a cup of coffee. I never turned out into a formal interview and didn’t take notes on our casual conversations.
2nd Engineer Darnell Doe
3rd Engineer Sam Bessey was filling in a temporary vacancy. He is a recent graduate of an academy in Maine and worked the opposite shift of mine so we had a few chances to talk a little, but not enough to call an interview. I do know he wants to head for Hawaii and try to find work there after this cruise, but will head home to Maine to see family first. Good luck in your new career Sam.
Roy Tolliver was our tech person. I most often saw him walking from place to place on the decks, checking on electronic equipment and trying to troubleshoot computer problems when they arose. Roy has worked on ships for many years and has been many places around the world.
Roy Tolliver and Sam Bessey on the flying bridge as we moved into the harbor at Gulfport
O C Hill, Listed on the staff roster as a “wiper” was another one of the people who kept the ship running. Our interactions were limited to friendly smiles and greetings. When folks work in the engine room it is hard to find a time to talk with them, especially if shifts don’t match.
Otha (O.C.) Hill
Valerie McCaskill, our cook and one of the most important people on the ship. I know she has a daughter she was eager to get home to see. I know she had very little warning that the previous cook would not be on this voyage so she had to step in in a hurry. I know that she has a beautiful smile and makes legendary macaroni and cheese! She kept us very happy!
Chuck Godwin would normally be working on this ship as a skilled fisherman on the deck crew, but he worked in the kitchen with Valerie this trip to fill an important empty spot and keep us all well-fed. His irrepressible sense of fun and lively conversation kept us all hopping. His career has spanned time in the Coast Guard as well as years with NOAA. His is a proud new grandpa.
Valerie McCaskill and Chuck Godwin in the galley of NOAA Ship OREGON II
That I did not get to know everyone on the ship is my loss. Everyone that I met was friendly and helpful. It was a true pleasure to meet and work with these great people.
Weather Data is not available for this post because I am writing from the Biloxi/Gulfport Airport.
WHO WORKS ON THE OREGON II? Part 2: THE SCIENTISTS
Meet Lisa Jones, a career marine scientist who came to her present position as a Research Fisheries Biologist for NOAA from a life of working with animals. Born in Memphis and raised in the mountains of east Tennessee, she did her undergraduate work at Emory University, and then earned her Master of Science at East Tennessee State.
Lisa has lived and worked in Colorado where she trained horses for a while. She moved to California and worked for the Department of Fish and Game to earn money for grad school and eventually ended up in at the National Marine Fisheries lab in Pascagoula, Mississippi. She started there as a student intern and 19 years later is working as a research scientist for NOAA. Her schedule of being out on the water during the summer and home during the winter months suits her well.
Ten years ago Lisa got interested in doing agility training with a rescue dog she kept, an Australian Shepherd. Since then she has acquired 3 more Aussies through rescue and adoption (one dog left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.) Lisa’s interest in dog training and agility trial competition helps her recharge her energy and enthusiasm each winter so she is ready to go back to sea in the spring. Her big goal is to make it to the national agility dog competition trial with her Aussies.
Lisa’s advice for students interested in a marine science career is to do well in math and science, but do not neglect developing good research and communication skills: reading, writing and speaking. In a science career you will need to be able to work as a team member, report on your work and develop applications for grant funding. While you are young, get out and volunteer to get experience. Take internships, volunteer at an aquarium, a science camp or as a field work helper. Getting good field work experience is important even if you don’t plan a research career. It is hard to run support for researchers and set policy for others if you don’t have a fairly deep understanding of their jobs. “Always ask questions. Demonstrate your interest. The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.”
Lisa has been my go-to person for everything I needed to know about living and working on the OREGON II. From making sure I met everyone, to teaching me to use and care for our equipment, to teaching me to cut mackerel and bait hooks, she has been right there. The success of this experience for me has been mostly due to having good teachers and being with a group of people willing to share their experience and expertise.
Kevin Rademacher, Fisheries Research Biologist, started out riding dolphins at Marine Life in Gulfport, Mississippi! He spent several years doing dive shows and working with performing marine mammals before he got into research work. Kevin was graduated from University of Southern Mississippi with major emphasis in biology and fisheries science and a minor in chemistry. After graduation he worked restoring antiques with his father while he applied for jobs in the marine science industry.
Kevin started out on NOAA Ship CHAPMAN, a 127’ stern trawler. In 1988 he spent 240 days at sea as a survey technician while earning certifications with survey equipment, deck equipment, as a diver, an EMT, worked the helm watch and corrected charts. Then he moved into the lab working with the marine mammal group, ground fish and reef surveys. He has chosen to continue working on reef fish surveys because it gives him the opportunity to work with cutting edge equipment like underwater cameras as they have evolved from simple video to using sophisticated arrays of four sets of camera groups, each cluster including a stereo black and white set and one color camera to give the fullest possible depth and detail 360⁰ images. Underwater work is Kevin’s main interest, but there are only so many research biologists so his job assignments have been varied. It was fortunate for me that he was assigned to work on the long-line survey this trip so I could learn from him.
During my time on the OREGON II Kevin has been a willing source of any information I request about the marine life we are seeing. He has a copious memory for facts and an encyclopedic knowledge of the appearance, habits, and names of the animals in the ocean. No matter what we brought up on our hooks, bony fish, sharks, algae, coral or shellfish, he knew them by common and scientific name and provided interesting facts to help me remember them. Kevin’s passion for his job is obvious in the way he attends to details and shares his knowledge. His irrepressible sense of humor made the afternoons baiting hooks with smelly fish in the hot sun an adventure instead of a chore.
The Day Shift Science Crew – Kevin Rademacher, TAS Barney Peterson, Lisa Jones, Mike Cyrana, and Kasea Price
Trey Driggers, Research Fisheries Biologist, first got interested in aquatic animals because of alligators. Growing up on a lake in Florida he was constantly warned to stay away from the water because there were alligators…the kind of warning guaranteed to intrigue any curious youngster. About then, the movie “Jaws” was released and the media blitz that accompanied it drew his imagination toward an even scarier predator. His interest grew and he remembers two books in particular that kept it alive: “The Dictionary of Sharks” and “Shark Attack.” From that point on his career path seemed to point straight toward marine biology.
Trey put in four years studying a basic liberal arts program at Clemson University. He remembers a Smithsonian presentation called “Shark in Question,” which had a chapter addressing the question “How can people become shark experts.” He entered the University of South Carolina and spent 2 years taking nothing but science courses to get enough credits and background knowledge to enter a Master’s program in Marine Science. He began working as a volunteer in labs and on commercial fishing boats to gain experience. Trey completed his thesis on yellowfin tuna and was ready to move on. Advisors warned him away from focusing on charismatic marine fauna, but his father had taught him to push back against barriers and pursue his goals. He began working as a volunteer in labs and on commercial fishing boats to gain experience. He spent 3 years earning his Ph.D. and worked in a post-doctoral position while looking for a research job. His previous volunteer work on surveys gathering information on blacknose sharks helped him get a foot in the door to get a contract position at the NOAA Fisheries Research Lab in Pascagoula. He continues research to add to our understanding of sharks and enjoys his job because he loves the challenge of not knowing all the answers.
Trey’s advice to young people is to get involved in volunteering in a variety of ways so you can discover where your interests lie. That volunteer experience can demonstrate interest that will set you apart from other applicants when it comes to applying for the limited number of positions that may be available in your chosen field.
Trey Driggers, head of the Night Shift Science Team, working in the dry lab
There were six unpaid volunteers aboard the ship this cruise. They provide important manpower to get the research done while gaining knowledge and experience to transfer to other areas of their lives. Most often they are students who are gathering data to use for research projects, working toward advanced degrees. Sometimes there will be a volunteer like me, a very lucky Teacher at Sea who has been chosen by NOAA…….. to participate in the cruise to learn about the work and careers in NOAA to take that knowledge back and share it with our students and the general public.
Mike Cyrana is a Post-Doctoral Student at Tulane University, working toward his PhD in Marine Biology. This is the second year he has worked with fisheries crews in the Gulf as he compiles data for his research. Mike was on my watch so we worked together 12 hours each day and got to swap stories and share information. He shows a passion for his work that lets you know he has chosen a career he loves. Mike is to blame for introducing me to chocolate tacos….my newest vice!
Mike showing off the catch
Lydia Crawford is also a Post-Doctoral Student at Tulane University. She is doing research about sharks for her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Lydia was on the midnight to noon shift so our paths crossed very seldom. She is knowledgeable and willingly shared what she knows to help make our jobs easier. She also has been out on research cruises as a volunteer before and helped us newbies learn the ropes.
The Night Shift at work – Trey, Chrissy, Lydia, and Toni
Kasea Price, working for her MS at University of Southern Mississippi was on day shift with me and helped me wrangle sharks, dissect for otoliths and collect any number of specimens to bring home to my class. On one of our last days working together she found out that she has been hired to work for one of her professors at school, a job that will make it possible for her to complete her degree without piling up huge loans. We all celebrated for Kasea.
Kasea Price showing off a large Red Grouper
Toni Mancinelli is the youngest of the volunteers. She is an undergraduate, just starting her junior year at The University of Tampa. She felt very fortunate to be accepted for this cruise and worked hard to learn and contribute while she participated. Her happy attitude and willingness to help made her a pleasure to know and work with.
Weather Data is not available for this post because I am writing from the Biloxi/Gulfport Airport.
WHO WORKS ON NOAA SHIP OREGON II? (Part 1)
In the last few days I have had the opportunity to become better acquainted with some of the great people aboard the OREGON II. The variety of backgrounds and experiences provides richness to the culture we work in.
Firstly, there is our Commanding Officer, David Nelson. Upon meeting him when I came aboard I felt immediately welcomed by his warm, informal greeting, “Hi Teach.” His drawl gives him away as a life-long southerner. His friendliness and casual manner in conversation make it easy to see him as just one of the people who work here. BUT, make no mistake: Dave Nelson is a smart, perceptive, capable leader who understands ships and crews from the keel up.
CO Dave Nelson’s route to command has not been the typical college to NOAA Corp Officer track. He got where he is today by working through the ranks. After high school graduation he worked on commercial long-line and shrimp boats in the Gulf, gradually moving on to oil field supply boats. At some point he decided to look into marine work that offered worker benefits and more chance of vertical advancements. Dave had earned his card as an AB (Able Bodied Seaman) and been captain of fishing boats. He hired on as a Skilled Fisherman at NOAA and began a new phase of his career. His skills set matched the needs of NOAA well enough that he moved from deck hand to deck boss to 3rd, then 2nd officer and in 1998 he got his First Mate’s papers and became part of the wheel team.
Advancement at that point began to require more formal training and certification. He had had to invest 700 days at sea with NOAA to get that first license. The big prize became the Master rank requiring an additional 1000 days at sea and rigorous formal testing. He headed to Seattle where he enrolled at Crawford Nautical School, lived aboard NOAA Ship RAINIER at Sand Point, and spent seven days a week for 10 weeks immersed in preparing to take tests for the Master rank. It was a proud day in 2003 when he called his family to report success.
Today, Dave is one of only two people in command of NOAA ships who are not NOAA Corps officers. He brings to his job a depth of knowledge that positions him well to understand the challenges and rewards at every level on his ship. He appreciates the continuity possible for him because he is not subject to the mandatory rotation of postings every 2 or 3 years as are members of the Corps. He has the first-hand experience to know where the rough spots may be and to address those proactively. I am not saying other ship’s Captains don’t have those same abilities, but CO Nelson has truly earned his position working from the bottom up.
Captain Dave Nelson on the bridge as we came into Gulfport, Mississippi
Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander Lecia Salerno, born in Halifax, PA, has loved the ocean for as long as she can remember, back to family vacations at Delaware beaches in her early childhood. She vividly recalls running joyfully into the water and being lifted high in the air by family members so the waves wouldn’t crash over her head! Later, a family visit to Sea World may have been the start of her fascination with marine mammals.
In her soft southern accent, no doubt developed during her undergraduate years in college at Myrtle Beach, SC, she tells of graduating with a degree in Marine Biology in 2001. She returned to Pennsylvania where she spent the summer as a volunteer at Hershey Park before moving on to Gulfport, MS, in 2002. There she trained sea lions which she remembers as uniquely intelligent and interesting to work with. Training dolphins: not so fun and that changed her attitude about working with captive animals. She began to see that type of work as a dead-end so she started looking at other options. That is when she discovered NOAA Corps. For her it seemed the perfect mix of military-style structure and science at sea.
Now, several years into her NOAA career, she views her role as being a “science facilitator.” Her daily work is with management of people and resources. She is mostly in an office and does not work in the science lab. Rather, she helps organize the support necessary to make the science at sea possible.
Lieutenant Reni Rydlewicz worked a lot of jobs in a lot of places before she became a NOAA Corps Officer. Raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she attended the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater and graduated with a degree in Ecology Field Biology. An early goal of hers was a move to Alaska so after graduation she worked as a contracted observer on commercial fishing boats in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. NOAA Fisheries employs regional contractors all over the country so next she moved to Chincoteague, Virginia, where she also worked as an observer on fishing boats. Then, for a few years, she was back in Wisconsin conducting seasonal work for the state Department of Natural Resources collecting data on recreational catches on Lake Michigan including salmon and steelhead.
Eventually Reni moved to New Jersey to a position as a coordinator for the mid-Atlantic observer program, working hand in hand with the commercial fleets and managing biologists aboard the vessels to gather data for NOAA Fisheries. After a change in contractors a few years later, she again found herself in Virginia, this time working as a dockside monitor for recreational species.
By this time Reni had spent almost a decade as a contract worker on NOAA jobs. A retired NOAA Corp Captain in her local American Legion suggested that she apply to NOAA Corps based upon her experience. With that encouragement she met with a NOAA recruiter on a trip to Washington DC and has now been working on fisheries research ships as a NOAA Corps Officer for over seven years. She is currently the Operations Officer aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II. Reni has considered returning to college to earn an advanced degree, but juggling work and school can sometimes be a difficult process. She will soon be due to rotate to a land-based assignment for the next three years and is considering positions on the West Coast, continuing her work with NOAA Fisheries.
Reni’s advice to students is to take lots of science and math classes. Science is a broad subject and can be applied in many different ways to so look around and find what really captures your interest. Finding jobs in science fields can be very competitive so get as much education and experience as you can. A career in science can be one that you really love, but it likely will not ever make you rich. How do you decide what to study? “Well,” she says, “Think of something you want to know more about and then go to work finding answers to your own questions. Go with you interests!”
Ensign Brian Yannutz is another young person from the central part of the United States who has chosen marine science as a career. Raised in Colorado, he went to University of Hawaii with assistance from the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program. He earned his degree and presented his work in Washington DC, then returned to Hawaii where he worked on a temporary job in the NOAA Marine Debris Program. In 2014 he applied to NOAA Corps and was graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in December 2014.
Brian’s first assignment is the OREGON II where he will be until December of this year. His land-based assignment will be as an Operations Officer at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in California. His job there will have him working with schedules and boat maintenance. He will be the officer in charge of deployments on the two research boats stationed there, one a fisheries boat and the other a diving platform.
Outside of his work for NOAA, Brian is an enthusiastic runner. He ran cross country in school and since then has run marathons and ironman races. His advice to young people getting ready to find a career is to “follow your dreams and passions.” His have led him to a career in NOAA where he can travel, learn and grow with his job.
Ensign David Reymore can be described as the “renaissance man.” He grew up mostly on a small family ranch in Tonopah, NV. His high school years were spent rodeo riding: team roping, calf roping and saddle bronc riding. After high school he continued to enjoy rodeo as he worked as a farm mechanic rather than enter the family construction business. Eventually he enrolled at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and earned a degree in aeronautical science. While in college he joined Air Force ROTC, but after a visit from a Navy ROTC recruiter, he switched to the Navy and earned a scholarship to Officer Candidate School. Dave remained in with the Navy, on active duty, and then as a civilian flight test engineer until 2008.
The next step was to enroll in premed training at University of West Virginia, but the demands of supporting his young and growing family made it more important to settle immediately into a job with benefits and advancement opportunities. For the next several years, after completing training, he worked as an engineer for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, running mainly between Vancouver, Tri-Cities, Wenatchee, and Seattle, WA.
Still eager to learn and grow, NOAA Corps caught his eye and he spent 5 months at the US Coast Guard Academy in officer corps training to become an Ensign in NOAA Corps. What’s next? Dave has his heart set on getting back in the air and has been accepted into training to join the NOAA Aviation team. Maybe he will be flying small planes that do aerial surveys of marine mammals, using helicopters, or even flying with the Hurricane Hunters. At this point, the sky is the limit.
Lieutenant Commander Lecia Salerno, Ensign Dave Reymore and Ensign Brian Yannutz