Christopher Tait: “Water, Water, Everywhere. Nor any drop to drink.” April 8, 2017

 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Christopher Tait

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

March 21 – April 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

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.”

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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.

Scientist Profile:

“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.

 Figure 1:

 

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Scientist (left to right) Dave Griffith, Kevin Stierhoff, Bev, Lenora, Bill Watson, Sue Manion, Chris Tait (Teacher at Sea) & Megan Human

Dave Griffith

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.               

Lanora

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.

Sue Manion

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.

Bill Watson

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.

Megan Human

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.

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Contemplating a successful fishing voyage as we sail under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Personal Log

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.

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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.” 

Barney Peterson: Who Works on NOAA Ship OREGON II? Part 3

NOAA Teacher a Sea

Barney Peterson

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 13 – 28, 2016

Mission: Long Line Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weather Data is not available for this post because I am writing from the Biloxi/Gulfport Airport.

DECK CREW

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!

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The Deck Crew – Chris Nichols, Mike Conway, Tim Martin, James Rhue, and Chris Rawley

ENGINEERS

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.

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Richard Brooks

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Barney Peterson: Who Works on NOAA Ship OREGON II? Part 2

NOAA Teacher a Sea

Barney Peterson

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 13 – 28, 2016

Mission: Long Line Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Sunday, August 28, 2016

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.

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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.

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Trey Driggers, head of the Night Shift Science Team, working in the dry lab

VOLUNTEERS

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Barney Peterson: Who Works on NOAA Ship OREGON II? Part 1

NOAA Teacher a Sea

Barney Peterson

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 13 – 28, 2016

Mission: Long Line Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Sunday, August 28, 2016

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.

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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.

 

Alex Miller, The Sea Around Us, The Seafloor Below Us, June 7, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alexandra (Alex) Miller, Chicago, IL
Onboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
May 27 – June 10, 2015 

Our ship.

Our ship.

Mission: Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment
Geographical area of cruise: Pacific Coast
Date: Sunday, June 7th, 2015

Weather Data:

  • Air Temperature: 12.4°C
  • Water Temperature: 13.3°C
  • Sky Conditions: Overcast
  • Wind Speed (knots/kts) and Direction: 22 kts, N
  • Latitude and Longitude: 45°59’62”, 124°33’97”

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The only piece of equipment on the Shimada I haven’t told you about is the box corer. Jason Phillips has been using the box corer to collect, well, box cores. Box cores are samples of the bottom of the ocean or sea floor (also, seabed). The box core is lowered to various depths (400 m, 300 m, 200 m, 100 m and 60 m), then survey technicians, Jaclyn Mazzella or Phil White, open the jaws of the machine and scoop up a mouthful of whatever is on the bottom, including benthic (referring to bottom of the ocean) creatures.

Once surfaced, Jason subsamples the sediment, sand, mud, small pieces of rocks and debris, removing just a small part of it and storing it until our return to land. Subsampling allows scientists to measure a manageable amount and then generalize about the larger remainder; while this is limiting because it assumes uniformity throughout the box core, the alternative is looking through each piece of sediment individually, something that is time and cost prohibitive. However, he does invest the time necessary to pick out all the creatures collected by the box corer.

Back at his lab, Jason will analyze the sediment, and then he or a colleague will identify all the tiny, tiny organisms, living things, found in the core.

Below, you can see Jason processing the core. He has washed down the smaller pieces of sediment like clay and sand through the holes in the mesh sieve. The sieve traps the smaller pieces of rock and even smaller animals, allowing him to pick them out and place them into preservative for processing when he returns to shore.

Jason and Amanda pick out benthic organisms from a core sample.

Jason and Amanda pick out benthic organisms from a core sample.

Through the study of box cores, Jason hopes to learn more about the creatures that live on the bottom of the sea. He told me many scientists who are doing box cores are simply collecting the sediment for study, they are not looking to see what organisms live in it, and therefore, there is a lot we don’t know. He says, “I would not be surprised if we found a new species in these cores.”

Take a look at some of the creatures Jason has unearthed on this cruise:

Because he has been collecting this data for two years, there are some patterns emerging about sediment conditions in different areas of the seabed. This information may help inform the placement and construction of a proposed wind farm off the Oregon coast.

For at least one day of our cruise, Jason also put out hooked long-lines to try and catch albacore, a type of tuna. Unfortunately, the fish weren’t biting. While albacore are unique among most tuna in that they prefer cooler water, Jason says the late-spring waters off the Oregon coast are still a little too cold for them and since they can swim up to 100 miles a day, they can easily find some more comfortable temperatures. The albacore that have been caught on previous cruises as part of this ongoing study are being tested for radioisotopes that may have originated from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011.

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And, of course, there’s always fun to be had on the Shimada. Below you can watch a video of Jason unearthing a pupa utility-worm from one of his box cores; scientific name (Travisia pupa), affectionately known as the “stink worm.” Will decides we need a closer, um, look.

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Tyler Jackson, a Master’s student at Oregon State University has been working on fisheries genetics since he was an undergraduate. His interest in marine science began when he was a wee recreational fisherman’s son growing up on the US-Canada border in Port Huron, MI.

In collecting megalopae, a larval form of Dungeness crab, he is trying to determine how closely related the Dungeness crab of areas off the Oregon coast are. He has studied population genetics among adult Dungeness crabs along the West Coast. He hypothesizes that if adult crabs in an area are closely related, larvae settling in the nearshore would be too. However, he tells me that it is not well understood how crab larvae travel throughout the ocean, and then for some to make it back to nearshore and settle to the bottom, maybe near where they came from. Perhaps these extended families get scattered throughout the seas, perhaps not.

Tyler Jackson, Oregon State University

Tyler Jackson, Oregon State University

At the first few stations, the tows were not bringing back enough individuals to give Tyler a large enough sample size to provide a reliable assessment of whether the crabs in that part of the ocean are related or not. Unfortunately, on this cruise Tyler did not get a sample size large enough to use.

In the following video you can see that, after sieving the neuston, Tyler found two Dungeness megalopae (too small of a sample size to test) but quite a lot of red rock crab megalopae. These little creatures are fascinating and pretty adorable.

I also interviewed Tyler about his work and life at sea. You can hear our talk below.

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Two nights ago, I couldn’t sleep at all, and I was thinking about the fact that my time on the Shimada is quickly coming to a close. I was trying to find a way to get even more information from the scientists on board to you. Taped interviews seemed like the perfect solution. I began conducting them yesterday and, after finishing three, realized I’d spoken to three of the four other women of the science crew. And so, here we are having a conversation about gender equity in the sciences.

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The ladies of the science crew. From left: Samantha Zeman, Amanda Gladics, Emily Boring, Brittney Honisch, Alexandra Miller

Using data from a longitudinal study done by the National Science Foundation, in 1973, 88% of doctorate holders working at the university level in life sciences (includes marine biology) were male, just 12% were female. Hearteningly, women have become much more well represented in the life sciences; in 2010, these numbers were 58% and 42%, respectively‡. You can see this same kind of near gender balance on board the Shimada: of the twelve (counting me) members of the science crew, five are women. Women are also well-represented in this blog post.

You can see the numbers breakdown for all the science and engineering fields here.

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I interviewed the four other women of the science crew about their research and life on board the ship, as well as being a woman in the field of life science. You can hear those interviews below.

If you would like to find the parts of the conversations about gender equality in marine science, you may use the time stamps below.

Table of Contents:

  • Amanda Gladics, Faculty Research Assistant, OSU Seabird Oceanography Lab (13.55)
  • Samantha Zeman, Graduate Student and Research Assistant, University of Oregon (7.00)
  • Brittney Honisch, Marine Scientist, Hatfield Marine Science Center (8.50)
  • Emily Boring, Sophomore, Yale University (I did not ask Emily as she is still an undergraduate)

‡Compare this to the numbers for the physical sciences, in 1973, 95% of doctorates employed in academia were male, compared to 5% female; in 2010, 79% male to 21% female.

Additional Reading:

“Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?” New York Times, 2013

And no less than 4 days later…

“Tim Hunt Resigns After Comments” New York Times, 2015

Twitter Campaign #distractinglysexy

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Question of the Day:

Why are there still so few women in science? What can be done to encourage girls to pursue, and stay, in STEM fields?

Mary Cook, January 4, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: January 4, 2005

Location: Latitude 49°28.60’S, Longitude 74°26.42’W
Time: 0835

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 10.34
Water Temperature (Celsius) 11.83
Relative Humidity (percent) 74.17
Air Pressure (millibars) 997.56
Wind Direction (degrees) 226.45
Wind Speed (knots) 6.89
Cloud Cover: 8/8 Low Stratus
Precipitation: Steady rain
Sunrise 0559
Sunset 2205

Question of the Day

What does NOAA stand for?

Quote of the Day

“Midwesterners make some of the best sailors.” Tim Wright, Captain of the RONALD H. BROWN.

Science Log

Today I’ve conducted several interviews of the ship’s officers, merchant marines, and Chilean channel pilots. I’d like to thank each person for giving their time and for being enthusiastic and open in sharing about themselves and their work.

Interview: Captain Tim Wright

Captain Wright shares with us that growing up as a boy in land-locked Kirkwood, Missouri he loved to read about the ocean and romanticized about becoming a sea-faring man. He joined the Navy at 18 and served in the Vietnam War. After his time in the service he went to the University of Washington and obtained a degree in Physical Oceanography. Captain Wright achieved this rank in October of 2003 and has been the Captain of the RONALD H. BROWN since February, 2004. Captain Wright says that his most important duties are the safety and security of the crew and ship. His responsibility is a 24 hour a day job for navigation and safe overside operations. Captain Wright shares that his most enjoyable time with NOAA was when he worked three years in Paris for the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. It was a time when he could have his family living with him. Another very enjoyable time was his stint as the Captain of the KA’IMIMOANA, a NOAA ship stationed in Pearl Harbor. They deployed buoys along the equatorial Pacific. Captain Wright says he loves his work and wouldn’t dream of having any other career. He highly recommends oceanography and the seafaring life for the person who enjoys the outdoors, adventures, and challenges.

Interview: Navigator Jeffery Shoup

Navigator and Bridge Officer Jeffery Shoup grew up with two older sisters in Oak Park, Illinois. He obtained a Chemistry/Chemistry and Physics Education degree from “Miami of Ohio” in Oxford, Ohio. He considers his responsibilities to be standing watch, driving the ship and laying out the trackline for the scientists. After the scientists turn in a statement telling him where they want to go to do their projects, Mr. Shoup maps out a safe and efficient course for the ship. He has been with NOAA for three years and considers this cruise to be the highlight. Since he left Charleston, he has traveled through the Panama Canal and the Straits of Magellan will be great place to get off the ship. He has also been to the Canary Islands and Iceland. Mr. Shoup says that persons who aspire to the seafaring lifestyle should be independent, self sufficient and able to get along well with others. He says the only negative thing about going to sea is that the family relationships suffer because of your absence for long periods of time. This is Jeffery Shoup’s last cruise. He’s taking a new position in Maryland to work for Search and Rescue Satellite (SarSat). This is where they receive messages from beacons on ships and aircraft in distress. The SarSat beacons use GPS to locate the needy vessel and then personnel proceed with the rescue.

Interview: Ensign Silas Ayers

Junior Officer Silas Ayers grew up in Pennsylvania as one of five children. He has been with NOAA for one year. Before that, he served three years in the Army and attended school for eight years at Westchester University in Pennsylvania where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Earth and Space Education and a Master’s Degree in Physical Science.

Ensign Ayers says that he chose this career and way of life to gain real world experiences to become better equipped for a teaching career. He considers his responsibilities on the ship to be ship safety, damage control, and property accountability. Mr. Ayers says the most fascinating experience for him has been the personalities aboard the ship. “I’m a ‘people’ person not a ‘place’ person.” The human dynamics involved in living aboard a seagoing vessel are fascinating to him.

Interview: Jim Melton

Mr. Jim Melton is a pilot, a lookout and a deckhand. He is a merchant marine and works under the Department of Commerce. Mr. Melton grew up in Florida and has been going out to sea since he was about three years old. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1970. Mr. Melton has a colorful and exciting life of doing all sorts of work such as pipefitting, welding, grooming ski resort slopes, farming, being a real working cowboy, and of course all kinds ship work. He shares that his most fascinating experiences have been at sea. He loves it. But he also shares that it’s not the life for everyone. It’s lonely and hard on relationships. The sad part for a father at sea is not being there to raise your kids. He considers his father to be his inspiration because he was a hard worker, a jack-of-all-trades, and an adventurer.

Interview: Chilean Pilot Luis Holley

Mr. Luis Holley of Reñaca, Chile has been a Patagonian Channels and Magellan Straits pilot for 4.5 years. Before that he was in the Chilean Navy for 33 years and retired at the rank of Captain. Mr. Holley shared with me that before one becomes a pilot he must have certain credentials. These credentials include being an advanced Captain in the Chilean Navy or the Chilean Merchant Navy. He said that they often use the channels for navigation and military exercises. If one has the credentials then that person may apply to the Chilean Coast Guard for the position of pilot. The Coast Guard puts them through a three week course of simulations and real navigation through the passages. There are only 88 channel pilots.

Interview: Chilean Pilot Alex Waghorn

Mr. Alex Waghorn has been a pilot for the Patagonian Channels and the Magellan Straits for three years. He makes 18-20 passes through here per year. Mr. Waghorn shared with me that to become a pilot for these channels you must be ever vigilant, memorize charts and become very familiar with the passageways. He said overconfidence is dangerous and he treats every trip just as if it were his first time.

Personal Log

I awoke at 0530 in eager anticipation of passing through the English Narrows. It is a cold, foggy, rainy morning. I can see my breath. It’s cold enough that even the “die-hards” have to come in to warm up and get a cup of hot chocolate. The English Narrows are narrow. We were so close to the land, I could see the individual leaves of the trees! Just this morning in the span of one hour, I saw more waterfalls cascading down the mountains and plunging into the sea than I’ve ever seen in my entire life! I started to count them, but as the ship rounded every bend, there were more and more of them, so I just gave up on the count and enjoyed the view. I’ve never been anywhere like this before.

There’s something I’ve come realize about the RONALD H. BROWN: this is a boatload full of map-lovers! I’ve never been so surrounded with people, like myself, who love to read maps. They are magnetically attracted to maps. And when they’re reading a map, it’s like they’re being transported to that place and can visualize it as though they are really there.

It’s ironically funny that yesterday, I was on the bridge and I spied a new and different kind of map. So I strolled over to get a closer look. It was a detailed chart of the Patagonian Channels and the Straits of Magellan! I smiled and said, “I want a map like that!” Ensign Ayers said, “You and everyone else on this ship.” I realized I wasn’t the only person who had an interest in that map. I soon discovered that these maps are printed especially for the Chilean pilots who guide ships safely through these passageways. Hopefully, there’s a way to get my hands on a copy.

Now, wouldn’t that be something? ?

This evening as I sit here and ponder all the day’s happenings, I think about the remoteness of this place. How we’re one little ship seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The land and water and sky are beautiful and cold and cloudy and ………….. empty of people. I look at those massive, worn, eroded mountains with snow and blue-hued glaciers and realize that I can’t even fathom the magnitude of the powers that have formed them. It causes me to recognize my place. The reality is I’m weak and small and made of dust. And that I have absolutely no jurisdiction over the driving forces behind the natural cycle of Earth. The Earth is essential for my fleshly existence but I’m not at all essential for Earth’s existence.

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Kathy Virdin, July 22, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathy Virdin
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier

July 20 – 28, 2004

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area:
Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Date:
July 22, 2004

Latitude: 55 degrees 39’N.
Longitude: 157 degrees 54’W.
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction: 270 degrees W.
Wind speed: 6 kts.
Sea wave height: 0-1 ft.
Swell wave height: 2-3 ft.
Sea water temperature: 12.8 C.
Sea level pressure: 1013.0 mb.
Cloud cover: Partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log

Today I interviewed several crew members, which gave me a much better perspective of the extent of work that is being conducted on the RAINIER. I first spoke with Jeremy Taylor, who is a survey technician whose job is to collect data on the ocean floor depths for the purpose of updating nautical charts. The RAINIER is dedicated to survey work that can enable all maritime vessels to successfully maneuver the ocean waters. As a survey technician, Jeremy is considered a scientist on board since the data he gathers is used by the scientific community. He collects the data from the multi-beam swaths and cleans it by deleting invalid or weak information, then sends it to other branches of NOAA (such as the cartographers) who review it, compare it to current nautical charts and then update those charts based on the new data. What is amazing to me is that the RAINIER does survey work in areas which may not have been surveyed since the 1800’s and have only had a few soundings listed. Their work is vital to commerce, fisheries management and the fishing industry. Jeremy said what he enjoys most about his job is being in Alaska, having the opportunity to go out in launches and receiving good data. He feels his job is extremely important since scientists need this data to find the habitats of various marine species. One example he gave was the fact that they can chart seamounts which are an area that contain a lot of marine life. This gives data that could help scientists discover new habitats for various species. Jeremy recommends a degree in hydrography to best prepare for this work, but also maintains that a degree in any area of science would be good basic preparation and on-the-job training would be supplied.

Next, I interviewed Briana Welton who is a Junior Officer, an Ensign in the Corps. She has a degree in math which has helped her greatly in her work. She is undergoing training to be an Officer of the Deck who will drive the ship. She also participates in the hydrographic surveys. She recommends students applying to the Maritime Marine Academy which is in New York. Briana loves the experience of being a hydrographic pioneer, as they are often charting unmeasured waters. She also loves being at sea and says it’s exciting to drive the ship. There are several divisions of ships that NOAA operates, such as the oceanographic studies, hydrographic and fisheries. The information gained by a hydrographic ship is first and foremost to be used for nautical charts, which are used by all mariners, from small fishing boats to large Navy vessels. The RAINIER also takes bottom samples that they can process in their lab to determine content and physical features of the ocean floor. The CDTs that they lower give temperature, salinity and density information to scientists that enable them to look for variations in the ocean climate that will affect marine habitats. Briana loves working on a ship and being part of a close-knit community.

Personal Log

This morning I thoroughly enjoyed talking with several crew members about their work and getting new information about all the facets of ship life. This afternoon I plan to work on lesson plans and tonight I’ll watch the survey technicians scan and clean up the data that comes in from the two launches that went out today. I also hope for some time to do more research on the complexities of the mission of NOAA and study some nautical charts. It’s amazing to me that I can walk out on deck at 10:30 at night and it will still be light. In Alaska in the summer there are about 19 hours of daylight.

Wow!