David Amidon: All Aboard for Science, June 12, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Amidon

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

June 2 – 13, 2017

Mission: Pelagic Juvenile Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean off the California Coast

Date: June 12, 2017


Science Log: 

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. IMG_1930

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 downloadLasker. 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!

A Butterfish

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.   

San Diego red crabs last haul 1703.JPG
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.

An octopus

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.


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!


Personal Log

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!!!




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.”

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:


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.               


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.

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.

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 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.


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.


Tom Savage: Meet the Staff and Scientists, June 18, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tom Savage
On Board NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
June 10 – 19, 2015

Meet the Staff and Scientists

Mission: Cetacean and Turtle Research
Geographic area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 18, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 15 C
Wind speed: 5 knots
Wind direction: coming from the North West
Relative humidity: 90%
Barometer: 1009 millibars

Personal Log

My journey has come to a conclusion, and we are one hour from docking at the naval base in Newport, RI. What a privilege it is to be a part of this scientific mission. The substantial photos, videos, data and experiences will greatly enhance my physical and earth science curriculum and further my goal of getting students interested in fields of science. This journey has reinforced my position that a nation cannot advance and improve the quality of life without scientific research.

I would like to thank the scientists on board during this cruise, Mr. Pete Duley and Dr. Danielle Cholewiak


Teacher & Chief Scientist
Me, Pete Duley and Danielle “Dani” Cholewiak

Science and Technology Log

Every job aboard a research vessel is mission critical, and one is not more important than the other. During this excursion, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the crew and scientists that made this tour a success.


Executive Officer (XO), Patrick Murphy, NOAA Corps

Pat began his career studying Physics at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and earned a master’s degree in oceanography while attending Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. When asked how he got involved in the NOAA Corps, he mentioned there were two well defined career paths as an oceanographer: NOAA or teaching. He advises students who are considering the NOAA Corps to build operational leadership skills and to demonstrate that you can work in a team and complete a job when assigned.

A few of his favorite places he has visited while employed with the NOAA Corps: Farallone Islands Ca, Alaska bays and inside passages when hiding from storms, and Dutch Harbor located among the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.


Julianne, Acoustician

Julianne is a recent graduate of Oregon State University and received a BS in zoology, and she is currently working on her master’s degree. Her path with NOAA started as a recipient of the Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program. This program provides students with scholarship money and paid internships with the goal of fostering multidisciplinary training opportunities within NOAA. After graduating from Oregon State University, Julianne worked in Alaska at a remote salmon hatchery, Snettisham Hatchery. She is currently an acoustician with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center as a research analyst focusing on real-time acoustic tracking of baleen whales and the North Atlantic right whale migratory corridor project.


Genevieve, Research Analyst

Genevieve was also a NOAA Hollings scholar and worked on North Atlantic Right Whale calling behavior across seasons. Genevieve joined NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries acoustics team as a research analyst focusing on baleen whale acoustics and as an elementary school educational outreach program at the center. She is working on her doctorate in Environmental Biology with a focus on baleen distributions and migrations.


MMPA17355_HMoors-Murphy_ (35)
Hillary, whales specialist for Fisheries and Oceans, Canada.

Hilary became interested in whales at the age of five. “My mom was always super interested in the ocean and we went whale watching often.” She studied marine biology with a focus on seal acoustics. Getting on a boat to see and study marine animals is what she enjoys most about her job.

When asked about advice for students who want to study marine biology. “Get experience whenever you can, especially if you have the opportunity to work in a lab. Having experience is crucial. Volunteering with a professor who is studying seals led me to an avenue in whale biology.”


Dennis, Chief Steward

Prior to joining NOAA, Dennis had a career with the Navy for 20 years. Dennis has one of the most important jobs on the ship, keeping everyone fed. He is absolutely amazing!  While I was on duty on the Fly Bridge, around four in the afternoon, aromas from the galley drifted to the Fly Bridge.  It was a nightly contest to guess what would be served in the galley. His cooking is so unique that all of our guesses were incorrect; we went 0/5 that week. One night, steak was served for dinner and it was the best steak I have ever had.  Thanks Dennis!


Marjorie , Research Fishery Biologist

Marjorie works for NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Her job focuses on collecting data from commercial fishing operations. This data provides valuable information on determining if certain fish populations can maintain a healthy marine mammal population.

She earned an undergraduate degree in Natural resources from University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  She is currently working on a doctorate in Marine Biology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

Best wishes to all !


Andi Webb: The Chance of a Lifetime: Oregon II: July 16, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Andi Webb
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 11 – 19, 2014

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July 16, 2014
Science and Technology Log

Do you ever wonder sometimes how people are so generous with their time and talents? That’s how I feel onboard the Oregon II with a crew that is simply amazing at their work. The thing is, though, they make it seem like it’s not work to them. Oh, it’s hard work-that’s certain. But they all seem to enjoy it. There is passion for the ocean here, for the environment, for honing your craft. I feel certain I’m among some of the best scientists, NOAA Corps Officers, Deck Crew, Engineers-you name it. As if that weren’t enough, you can’t beat the food in the Galley! Who knew you could get French Silk Pie on a Groundfish Survey? Shhh….We’ll just keep that a secret!

Many people like to write about the scientific facts of NOAA in their blogs and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. I mean, this is science in action, right? Me, however? I like to write about how people make me feel. The people of the Oregon II make me feel welcome. They make me feel happy I’m here. I asked one of the scientists today to please tell me, without worrying about political correctness, if the crew really enjoys the teachers being on board. She readily answered, “I love for teachers to be here. You’re all so excited to learn and that makes it fun for us!” How refreshing. As I write this, someone just knocked on my door and told me they put my clothes in the dryer for me. Really? Does it get much better than this? Teacher at Sea is about learning what scientists do but to me, it’s also about immersing yourself in the work and the friendship on board. As I work the noon to midnight shift each day and the trawls come in, we “haul back” together. Brittany, Michael, and Mark know so much and I learn more and more each day. I’m thankful for them. Kim is sharing items I can use in my classroom. They’ve included me in what they do, they’re teaching me, and I’m making friends. For that, I am thankful.

She's an amazing ship. Something I've heard on board is that she's "a good 'ole girl."
She’s an amazing ship. Something I’ve heard on board is that she’s “a good ‘ole girl.”
The beautiful blue ocean today~Blue skies and blue waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
The beautiful blue ocean today~Blue skies and blue waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
Brittany, Michael, and Mark share their wisdom with me as I learn about all the creatures of the sea. It's truly magnificent to see so many different types of animals.
Brittany, Michael, and Mark share their wisdom with me as I learn about all the creatures of the sea. It’s truly magnificent to see so many different types of animals.
It takes everyone working together to get the job done.
It takes everyone working together to get the job done.
There are beautiful creatures like this every day here.
There are beautiful creatures like this every day here.
Well, they have beautiful qualities, too!
Well, they have beautiful qualities, too!
This is the food chain in action!
This is the food chain in action!
Pretty cool!
Pretty cool!

Amanda Peretich: Meet My “Mates”, July 19, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 30 – July 18, 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Bering Sea
Date: July 19, 2012

Location Data
Crowley pier, Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Personal Log
Today’s post is going to be about all of the people on board the Oscar Dyson for leg 2 of the pollock survey as I’ve spent the entire cruise with them. You’d think that being on a ship this size, I’d see all of these people all the time, but due to different shifts (the ship operates 24/7), sometimes I wouldn’t see people for days. I’ve really enjoyed working with and getting to know everyone, and hope that all of my questions and photos weren’t too annoying. This is a great group and I was absolutely blessed to spend 19 days on board with them. I’ve learned more than I ever thought I could and am extremely grateful for this amazing adventure. WARNING: this is a long post! There are 32 people on board (including myself), with so many good stories to tell and not enough time to tell them all.

Just a quick background on a few things:

Rankings and abbreviations in NOAA Corps (which are also the same as in the Navy)
ADM (admiral)
CAPT (captain)
CDR (commander)
LCDR (lieutenant commander)
LT (lieutenant)
LTJG (lieutenant junior grade)
ESN (ensign)

A somewhat incomplete flowchart showing the relationship between various organizations and departments related to NOAA

A somewhat incomplete flowchart showing the relationship between various organizations and departments related to NOAA

Now, onto the “bios” and fun facts, stories, or lessons learned …

1. CO (Commanding Officer): CDR Mark Boland
The CO is originally from Rapid City, South Dakota where he attended the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology to earn his degree in Electrical Engineering. He also earned a master’s degree in Engineering Management from the University of Anchorage, Alaska. Commander Boland joined NOAA Corps in 1990 and has worked his way up to the Commanding Officer over the years. When I first arrived in Dutch Harbor, I was out to dinner one night, had never met him, and he tells me that he’s found an article in one of those tourist magazines just for me. Okay, so I may not have had on an Alaska Ship Supply sweatshirt like everyone else, but I didn’t think I stuck out that much! He then tells me he’s the CO and I said “Oh, I’m the Teacher at Sea Amanda” to which he responds that he already knew that. The article? The difficulty of retaining teachers in rural areas of Alaska. A good read and sad truth.

2. XO (Executive Officer): 1st Mate Kris Mackie
Kris (often referred to as Mackie) has been on the OD since March 2011, following 13 years on the Miller-Freeman. He was born and raised in Ketchikan, AK, which is predominantly a fishing and logging community. He worked some odd jobs (like painting little Indian sculptures that were made in Korea and later sold as “authentic Alaskan totem poles”) and then worked at Alaska Ship and Dry Dock as a journeyman painter and sand blaster before working on the Miller-Freeman. The thing Mackie most misses is relationships (they are pretty hard to have when you spend so much time at sea) and says he will probably drive a boat another 15-20 years. His most memorable experience? Working in ice in the Alaskan waters. For students, Mackie recommends NOAA Corps because you can retire after 20 years or becoming an engineer because you can have both land and maritime assignments, both with good pay.

3. OPS (Field Operations Officer): LT Matt Davis
Matt (originally from Michigan) earned his B.S. in aerospace studies from Embry-Riddle in Arizona and his M.S. in math from Eastern Michigan. After joining NOAA Corps, he was assigned to the Miller-Freeman, based out of Seattle, WA. After 3 years, his land assignment was in the Channel Islands (off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA) to be in charge of operations for 2-3 small contractors. The OD is his second boat assignment and he has been here since January. Fun fact: Matt and Dave (see below) hiked in Akutan, Alaska during the last in-port between Leg 1 and 2 of this Pollock survey. They flew there in the amphibious “Grumman Goose”, which is an eight-seater sea plane that lands in the water and then goes right up on the dock because Akutan does not have a landing strip due to the steep terrain. Matt taught me an incredible amount of information during this cruise and I’m very much appreciative of everything I learned.

4. SO (Safety Officer): ENS Dave Rodziewicz
Dave grew up in the western suburbs near Chicago. He started off in the Coast Guard Academy for 2 years studying mechanical engineering before transferring to the University of Chicago Illinois to study Finance and Economics. After spending two years in an office analyzing stock, he joined NOAA Corps and actually wanted his ship billet in Alaska because it’s been “one big extended adventure”. In the future, he may do something with economics and an environmental focus, but for now he’s preparing for his shore duty (land billet) in Boulder, Colorado. Dave is very outdoorsy and most misses climbing. His favorite BOTC (Basic Officer Training Class) experience was “circumnavigating Manhattan” in small boats and his best adventure was hiking Grand Teton in Wyoming. Fun fact: Dave and Matt hiked in Akutan, Alaska right before we left for this leg of the survey (see more above with Matt Davis). During the trip, Dave actually got some sun and has a nice resulting farmer’s tan on his arms. Dave has also seen a large portion of the movies on board, tends to go for more of the thought-provoking movies (in my opinion), and is very knowledgeable about cinematic pictures.

5. Navigation and Medical Officer: ENS Chelsea Frate
Chelsea is originally from Connecticut and went to SUNY Maritime Academy in NY where she earned her B.S. in environmental science. She then went to BOTC and has been on the OD since December for her first ship assignment. She chose NOAA so that she could “sail on [her] license and utilize [her] major”. On board, she does medical, navigation, and environmental compliance. She most misses summer, even though she wanted to be in Alaska. She also misses tanning, but said that the highlights here are super cheap! The hardest part of her job is when the internet is slow and Facebook won’t load (and that she really does love her job). The one thing she does not want to ever do is dive school. Before we left Dutch, Chelsea invited me to go kayaking and she even joined me and Brian Kibler jumping in the freezing Alaskan waters at the end of our kayaking trip (for a very brief minute)!

6. JO (Junior Officer): ENS Libby Chase
Libby (who totally reminds me of my awesome friend Lesley) is fresh out of BOTC, just arriving on OD at the same time as me (although she’ll be here much longer than I will). She’s originally from “Bahh Haaabar” (Bar Harbor) and was appalled that I didn’t know that was in Maine. She has two dogs that she absolutely loves and totally misses. Libby is former Navy, having served 6 years on active duty (stationed in Oahu, Hawaii). During her next four years in the reserves, she went to Maine Maritime Academy and earned a B.S. in marine biology. She plans to stay in NOAA Corps until she retires (especially since she already has 7 years in with her Navy time). As a JO, she works 4 hours on the bridge, 4 hours off watch (where she reads manuals, standing orders, SOPs, etc.), 4 more hours on the bridge, and 12 hours off. Her favorite sea creature is the octopus (which is way better than any sort of crustacean according to her), and one of the other guys on board has nicknamed her Bright Eyes. I’ve also had plenty of fun on various scavenger hunts for EEBDs and fire extinguishers with Libby and plan to mail her a homemade otolith necklace as thanks when I get back to Maryland!

7. ENS Kevin Michael
Kevin is also straight out of BOTC (he was in the same BOTC class with Libby) but he’s originally from Arkansas. He went to Arkansas Tech University, where he has an associates in nuclear technology and a bachelors in mechanical engineering with a minor in math. After graduating in May 2011, he started a NOAA Corps application in June and then work as a nuclear engineer at Arkansas Nuclear One in August until he began BOTC in February 2012. Kevin is on OD for Leg 2 of the Pollock survey as a survey tech and should be working up on the bridge for Leg 3 before heading to Newport, Oregon to work at MOC-P (Marine Operations Center – Pacific) to await a final ship assignment. He’s a super hard worker and constantly doing something on board! Kevin didn’t see the ocean until he was almost 13 when he went to Padre Island, he drinks whole milk regularly, and he uses funny terms like “son of a bache” (Alexander Dallas Bache was important in NOAA Corps history). He’s also been enjoyable company in the fish lab during a majority of my shift and during meal times.

8. CME (Chief Marine Engineer) Brent Jones
Brent is from Kentucky but just recently moved to Delaware, where his wife lives while he’s at sea. He has worked for various companies over his lifetime, including Exxon shipping and then MSRC (Marine Spill Response Corporation), which is basically like the “firefighters” for an oil spill (such as the Exxon-Valdez incident). He then worked for Harrah’s Casino as their chief engineer. Harrah’s uses all in-house wiring, so it was a high stress job to keep everything up and running 24/7. Even though they worked 14 days on, 14 days off, they worked in 12 hour shifts and had to do 50 hours of unpaid community service (concerts, fights, etc.) each year. If there was a meeting on your off days, you still had to go in for it. Brent just came to the OD from the NOAA Pisces and stays very busy down in the engineering rooms. He also showed me all about the incinerator on board that they use to burn our trash. It can reach temperatures above 1200°C (2192°F) and will burn aluminum and such down to nothing but a little ash. Brent has been a USCG (U.S. Coast Guard) licensed chief marine engineer for 34 years. During his career, Brent has worked from Greenland to Punta, Chile and has seen 72 countries!

9. 1AE (1st Assistant Engineer) Tony Assouad
Tony is originally from Lebanon but went to school and college in Dubai. He worked for an oil company there for over 26 years, where he worked his way up from 3rd to 2nd to 1st and chief engineer. He has worked on LPG (liquid pressurized gas), crude oil, benzene, natural gas, and chemical ships. Fun fact: liquid pressurized gas is the same thing in lighters – think about how they work! Around 1990, he almost joined the army, but since the army couldn’t work it out for his wife to come from Dubai to live on base with him, he never signed on the dotted line. He’s been with NOAA for 6 years on 14 or 15 ships, where he goes to fill in for a missing 1AE or chief engineer position. His favorite part of ship life is when things are made easy. The coolest place he’s ever been is the south of France on one of the oil ships because it was near Monte Carlo, Nice, and the border to Italy.

10. 2AE (2nd Assistant Engineer) Vincente Fernando
Vincente is from the Philippines where he earned a bachelor’s degree in marine transportation with a marine engineering major. He has been on the OD since December 2011 after briefly working on the Pisces and Okeanos Explorer. He’s fairly new to NOAA after spending 20 years with the Norwegian JJ Ugland Company. Vincente actually has four engineering licenses: one in the US, one in the Philippines, one in Panama, and one in Norway! His job as the 2nd AE is to be in charge of fuel, generators, separators (water & fuel), boilers, and the noon reporting (of fuel consumption over the past 24 hours). He has a wife that lives in Pennsylvania and two kids that are a nurse practitioner and pharmacist.

11. 3AE (3rd Assistant Engineer) Robert Purce
Robert is always running around the ship on the opposite shift from me, so I didn’t get a chance to sit down and interview him. However, I did enjoy the conversations we’d have in the hallways and engineering spaces. You could always find him with a smile on his face.

12. EET (Engineering Electronics Tech) Terry Miles
Terry is another member of the engineering crew that is always running around working. He has two kids in their twenties, he’s incredibly smart, and he knows a ton about the OD. He’s always been that person to investigate how and why things work, so his job on board is right up his alley.

13. JUE Garry Guice
Ah yes, another engineer that was always moving around and hard to get a hold of on board. Garry is a great guy, fun to talk to, always looking out for people, and a hard-worker. He’s also a great pool player!

14. GVA (General Vessel Assistant) Joel Gabel
Joel (who grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan) served 6 years active duty in the Navy where he was discharged as a disabled American veteran. He worked in the automotive manufacturing plants for 18 years before heading back to college. He was hired in the engineering department in July 2011 as a general vessel assistant (GVA) on the OD and he is currently working towards a rating test for QMED (qualified member of the engineering department). The GVA position on NOAA ships is an entry level position in general (like a working apprentice for all departments aboard a ship). There are three departments a GVA can work in: deck, engineering, or steward, all with the potential to move up in rating and pay scale. On the Dyson, Joel is under the direction of a licensed engineer where he cleans the ship’s engineering spaces, fabricates items needed on occasion for the ship, makes rounds in all engineering spaces for anything out of place, and takes care of the ship’s sewage problems if they arise. Joel also employs some chemistry by treating the sewage with chlorine dosage tablets and measuring the pH level to determine if the effluent is good to pump overboard. He most misses being away from family and seeing his grandchildren grow up so quickly. He loves to take them out fishing on their lake and see the brightness in their eyes, but at least all of the kids and grandkids have wonderful stories of Joel working on a ship and fishing with them as a family. Joel is looking forward to taking off about two months after we arrive back in Dutch to go back home and see his family. He also plans to go back to college and finish a mechanical engineering degree.

15. Chief Scientist Neal Williamson
Neal said he was going to let me interview him before we got back to shore, but it never happened. Neal has been coming on the Dyson for the hydroacoustic research for quite some time. He taught me a ton about the scientific research going on and never hesitated to answer my million questions. Fun fact: I have taught Neal how to “Dougie” even if he didn’t approve our Shore Party to St. Matthews! It’s okay though because he’s been an amazing person to work under during this adventure J

16. Scientist Bill “Jackson” (name has been changed to protect his identity)
Bill is from Oregon and has been working in fisheries for more than 30 years. He actually works in field operations at both PMEL and AFSC and has been coming on the OD for quite some time. His best experience onboard was when he was on a Korean boat and his most interesting “find” was a kilo of hash off the east coast in a trawl (on a different ship). Bill likes to pass time sleeping, eating, playing cribbage, avoiding photos, and making a Steamboat Willie “woot woot” sound with the hand motion. Bill also tried to hide from me on multiple occasions, but I always found him!

17. Scientist Scott Furnish
Scott is originally from Spokane, WA but has lived in Seattle for 22 years. He is part of the midwater assessment half of MACE and serves as an IT specialist (and really also an electronics guy). His electronics training comes from his time with the Air Force reserves. After studying aviation maintenance at a community college, he worked as an aircraft mechanic for a few years. He joined NOAA in 1990. Scott typically comes on about 4 cruises a year and has plenty of side projects when he’s not working on the acoustics lab computers, hydrophones, transducers, cameras, and everything else. He most misses his family (wife and two kids) and his golden retriever. Scott is also pretty great at playing cribbage and does an excellent job of explaining things.

18. Scientist Denise McKelvey
Denise grew up in Oregon and has been working with NOAA “forever and a day”. She is a fish biologist with MACE in Seattle and completes about 4 ship trips during a season. She originally wanted to be an oceanographer but learned about tuna fishermen and decided she wanted to do some sort of science to help keep the fisheries going instead of just “research for research’s sake”. Denise has done a little bit of everything throughout her life and has an incredible thirst for knowledge. She always seems to be in a great mood, so you can’t help but smile around her. The first day I arrived in Dutch Harbor, she really wanted to go watch some locals fishing and find out all about their fish and what they were catching (which we did). She works on the opposite shift from me doing the same thing that Neal does during my shift so unless I stay up late, I don’t get to see her all too much. While on board, Denise most misses blueberries and straight from the market fresh produce.

19. Scientist Carwyn Hammond
Carwyn (who is also my awesome roommate that I rarely see because we are on opposite shifts on board) is originally from Brooklyn, NY but then moved to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and has been in Seattle for 11½ years. She has done a little bit of everything and knows a ton about everything it seems. She came out west as part of AmeriCorps to research salmon habitat restoration and continued with contract field work in salmon spawning surveys (snorkeling in glacial-fed rivers) and in electrofishing surveys. She works in conservation engineering on both NOAA ships and commercial vessels as part of her job and travels about 2 months a year for work and 1-2 months for fun. She specializes in fishing gear research, using camera and sonar to look at fish behavior in relation to gear and she would love to get on a boat someplace warm. Carwyn most misses her own bed and true free time when on board. She also has an amazing music selection on her iPod!

20. Scientist Anatoli Smirnov
Anatoli is from the Russian city of Vladivostok, where he is the head of the Pollock lab in the Pacific Scientists Oceanography and Fisheries Center. He spends about 3-5 months at sea, depending on the year, and will be on OD for all three legs of the Pollock survey this summer. In Russia, they do research on the other side of the International Date Line. Anatoli has been married for 34 years and has one daughter. His English skills are improving daily as he walks around with his Russian-English dictionary! His hobbies include fishing on the river for salmon and other freshwater fish and hiking. He’s also taught me a few phrases in Russian and how to properly sex pollock.

21. Science Intern Nate Ryan
Nate is originally from Iowa and is getting ready to start his fourth year at Lawrence University (population about 1,400) in Appleton, Wisconsin (which is apparently the home of cranes) where he is working to get his bachelors degree in biology. As part of an alumni placement program at Lawrence, Nate’s mentor (Anne Hallowed, the head of stock assessment and a senior scientist) landed him a summer internship at AFSC in Seattle, which is what allowed him to be on the OD for this leg of the pollock survey. Although school keeps him incredibly busy, Nate likes to read and hang out with friends. The coolest place he’s ever visited is Iceland (which, did you know, is not covered in ice). In the future, he might go to grad school, wants to go to China, and eventually “settle down someplace at some point”. I’ve definitely enjoyed playing both cribbage and rummy with Nate, even when I was losing. He also told me to make up something fun for his bio, so fact or fiction: Nate is an amazing scrapbooker!

22. Science Teacher at Sea Amanda Peretich
This whole blog is about me, so hopefully you’ve figured out who I am J If not, check out my first post on who I am!

23. Senior Survey Tech Kathy Hough
Kathy grew up outside of Philadelphia, PA and went to the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. Pursuing her interest in marine science, she earned her B.A. in Human Ecology and moved out west pretty much right after graduation. She worked on a bottlenose dolphin project in Monterey Bay, CA and then began working with NOAA in 1998. She originally worked for the Protected Resources Division under SWFSC where she began as a marine mammal observer. The coolest species she has seen is the North Pacific right whale outside of Kodiak because they are so endangered. While on board, she most misses her cat. Kathy is the Senior Survey Tech on the Oscar Dyson, so she makes sure all of the data going into the scientific computing system is working properly and assists the science party with any and all of the survey equipment.

A mercator plot showing lines of longitude
(from http://www.colorado.edu/geography/gcraft/notes/mapproj/gif/mercator.gif)

24. CB (Chief Boatswain) Willie Sliney
Willie is originally from Miami, FL but has been fishing in Kodiak since 1980. He has been on the OD for 8 years as a plank owner. This means that he’s been on the ship since it was christened. The OD is the first of five in the FSV (fisheries survey vessel) class, and it is FSV 224. In 5th or 6th grade, Willie wrote a report on Kodiak, Alaska and decided he wanted to go there. So he joined the Coast Guard, which has an air station in Kodiak, and was able to travel all over Alaska for four years before he started in the fishing industry. Not only did Willie graciously allow me to operate the oceanic winch for a CTD and “shoot the doors” during a trawl, he also taught me one morning a little more about some major lines of longitude, also known as meridians.

The lines of longitude run up and down from the north to south pole on a globe. The degrees are related to the Greenwich mean time, which is at 0º. The international dateline (IDL) is at 180º. If you look on the map below, we started near 54ºN 166ºW. This standard map that we are most familiar with is called a Mercator projection because it has 0º in the middle and 180º on either side. Oh, and there are different maritime certificates and line crossing ceremonies that occur for things like crossing the equator (Order of the Shellback), crossing the Arctic Circle (Order of the Blue Nose), and crossing the IDL (Golden Dragon). They are scheduled to cross the IDL on the next leg of this survey!

25. LF (Lead Fisherman) Patrick Kriegh
Patrick grew up in Philadelphia and joined the Coast Guard for four years so he could get to Alaska. Now he calls Kodiak home and has been on OD for 5½ years. He knew the ship’s namesake Oscar & Peggy Dyson and was able to come on board as the lead fisherman. Before NOAA, he worked in commercial fishing and construction. Commercial fisherman will get their “cut” based on the size of their catch versus NOAA ships where you get paid a set amount regardless of any of that. Patrick thinks the show Deadliest Catch should really be called Dumbest Catch because it’s all drama and pretty unrealistic (a common idea on this boat). He’s also really into snowmobiling. Patrick showed me a good number of breathtaking photos from all of his outdoor adventures, and I am incredibly jealous of all that he’s been able to see. In line with some song, Patrick says “I’ve seen everything on the bottom of the sea because I dragged it across the deck and sorted it!” Patrick also celebrated his birthday during this in-port!

26. AB (Able Bodied Seaman) Rick Lichtenhan
Rick is an extremely hard worker and was on the noon to midnight shift. Although I never formally sat down to interview him, I was able to talk with him during mealtimes when I’d crash the “deck crew” table.

27. SF (Skilled Fisherman) James Deen aka Deeno
Deeno is from Seattle and has been aboard the OD since July 2011. His dad is a fisherman so he’s been on boats since he was 11 and started working as a deck hand when he was 13 or 14. After high school, he went to Seattle Maritime Academy to become an able bodied fisherman (or AB). Following his 90-day sea term internship on the OD, he stayed on as a SF. Deeno has two brothers (one older, one younger) and likes to play Xbox. People refer to him as Deeno, which makes me think of Dino the dinosaur from the Flintstones (only based on the name, not because he looks like a purple dinosaur)! He’s pretty quiet but that’s because he’s such a great listener. After this leg, he’s taking some vacation to travel around Denmark, Norway, and more with his girlfriend. Deeno was definitely a very enjoyable meal companion on the multiple occasions I crashed his table.

28. SF Jim Klapchuk
Jim is on parole from Michigan and has been on the OD for 2 years. This is more of a second career for him as he used to be a forest firefighter and worked in the Florida Everglades during the winters and in Fairbanks (the “Golden Heart” of Alaska) during the summers. In Florida, he would catch alligators that were in campgrounds and around people and transport them to different locations, similar to what is often done with black bears in the Smoky Mountain National Park in Knoxville, TN (where I’ve been living the past 6 years). They would also catch a lot of exotic animals when people would get them as pets and release them into the wild for one reason or another. He saw mostly pythons but some anacondas and more. They would take them to the park biologists to dissect and determine what they were eating and if their presence may be disrupting the natural ecosystem. Jim has also fished on the Great Lakes and first worked on the NOAA Fairweather (out of Ketchikan, AK) for 2 years. Oh, and completely kidding on him being a parolee – that’s what he had planned to tell me to mess with me, but decided against it J

29. GVA Brian Kibler aka Kibbles
Brian is from Seattle, WA and went to Seattle Maritime Academy with Deeno to get his AB after high school. He has only been on the OD for two months but after 90 days, he will have his AB. Brian grew up on boats and used to go fishing with his dad a lot. He’s very much into the outdoors, so he enjoys wakeboarding, camping, mountain biking, rocking climbing, snowboarding, surfing, and anything adventurous. He’d much rather take a girl indoor skydiving than to dinner and a movie for a first date, although he said the hardest part of ship life is that there are no women. Even though he says there’s not much in Dutch Harbor, the coolest place he’s ever been is Pyramid Peak (in Dutch). Someone told him that Dutch had a pretty girl behind every tree and when he arrived, he was like “where are all the trees?!” because there are truly only a handful of trees. Brian was one of the first people I met from the Dyson in the Anchorage airport while on standby on the way to the ship. Since our shifts overlapped for a large portion of time, I’ve definitely enjoyed hanging out with and getting to know him over the past few weeks.

30. ET (Electronics Tech) Vince Welton
Vince is originally from Oregon and he is the electronics tech on board. He literally deals with ANYTHING electronic: computers, radar, phones, internet, etc. He worked as a DOD employee for 13 years doing Doppler radar for the B1 aircraft in Oklahoma. He was also in active duty air force 4 years, mostly stationed in Carswell, TX, but having temporary duty in Guam as well. With NOAA, he works both on the boat and also on land (but communicating with someone else on board). He misses his wife of 14 years and hunting the most, but enjoys the solitude of ship life because it “fits [his] personality”. The best animal he ever killed was a 9-point rack elk. He also enjoys other outdoors-y things like gold panning and hiking. Vince also taught me why the internet on board is shoddy when we are travelling north between about 330º and 350º, which deals partly with the layout of the ship and partly with the curvature of the Earth that blocks the signal between the ship and the satellites. When it comes to communicating with others aside from online, we have access on board to MRSATB (data & phone), Iridium (just voice), and VOIP (voice over internet protocol). If you aren’t careful when dialing out on the VOIP, you could potentially call 911 from a Maryland number, but they can’t come help us in the Bering Sea!

31. CS (Chief Steward) Tim Ratclif
Tim, originally from Indiana, is an amazing chef (which is not to be confused with a cook). He went to Coast Guard cooking school in Petaluma, CA and cooked in the Coast Guard for 9 years. After that, he spent 10 years all over the place from Indiana to Las Vegas, in restaurants, hotels, casinos, and more. He’s been working with NOAA for the past year and has delighted ship crew with his delicious cooking on the Delaware, Okeanos Explorer, Ron Brown, and now Oscar Dyson. He makes scrumptious food “with buckets of love” and has taught me the big three seasonings: salt, pepper, and garlic. His clam chowder is also to die for. He really likes the show 24 and Dexter (amongst others), has a Harley-Davidson and a house in Myrtle Beach, Virginia, and doesn’t have a favorite meal. But if he was on death row, he’d request his last meal to have “local fresh grown asparagus because it takes three years to grow!” (yep, it does – I checked it out online) and a grilled steak. On board, he most misses his part chow, part Australian Sheppard dog Buffy (named after Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Tim is super sarcastic, but in a good way, and his cooking (and nagging/encouragement to try tons of food) ensured that I visited the gym on a regular basis!

32. 2nd Cook Adam Staiger
Adam could always be seen helping Tim out in the kitchen, washing dishes, or cleaning up in the galley. Between meals, you could often find him in the TV lounge either watching a movie or taking a nap.

blog crew photo
Photo with the Oscar Dyson crew and scientists on Leg 2 of the Pollock survey of the Bering Sea in July 2012

Valerie Bogan: The Journey Ends, June 20, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Valerie Bogan
Aboard NOAA ship Oregon II
June 7 – 20, 2012

Mission: Southeast Fisheries Science Center Summer Groundfish (SEAMAP) Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
: Wednesday June 20, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Sea temperature 28  degrees celsius, Air temperature 26.4 degrees celsius.

 Science and Technology Log:

Well we have come to the end of the cruise so now it is time to tie it all the pieces together.  The Gulf of Mexico contains a large ecosystem which is made up of both biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) factors.  We studied the abiotic factors using the CTD which records water chemistry data and by recording information on the water depth, water color, water temperature, and weather conditions.  We studied the living portions of the ecosystem by collecting plankton in the bongo and neuston nets.  The health of the plankton depends on the abiotic factors such as water temperature and water clarity so if the abiotic factors are affected by some human input then the plankton will be unhealthy.  The trawl net allowed us to collect some larger organisms which occupy the upper part of the food web.  Some of these organisms eat the plankton while others eat bigger creatures which are also found in the trawl net.  Despite what they eat all of these creatures depend on the health of the levels below them either because those levels are directly their food or because those levels are the food of their food.

The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem
An illustration of how the food web in the gulf works. (picture from brownmarine.com)

The ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico has taken a couple of large hits in the recent past, first with Hurricane Katrina and then with the Deepwater horizon oil spill.  When an ecosystem has undergone such major events it is important to monitor the species in order to determine if there is an effect from the disasters.  Hurricane Katrina left its mark on the people of the Gulf coast but did minimal damage to the biotic parts of the ecosystem.  The effects of the deepwater horizon oil spill are still unknown due to the scope of the spill.

Today’s portion of the ship is the engine room.  I was recently taken on a tour of the engine room by William.  The ship is powered by two diesel engines which use approximately 1,000 gallons of fuel per day.  The ship obviously uses the engines to move from location to location but it also uses the energy to power generators which supply electrical energy, to air condition the ship and to make fresh water out of sea water.

The engines.
The twin diesel engines.

There are two vital positions on the Oregon II that I have not discussed, deck worker and engineer.  We could never have collected the samples that we did without the immense help of the deck workers.  They operated the winches and cranes that allowed us to deploy and bring back the nets which captured our samples.  The engineers kept the ship’s engines running, the electricity on, and the rooms cool.  Some of these men started out their careers as merchant marines.  A merchant marine is a person who works on a civilian-owned merchant vessel such as a deep-sea merchant ship, tug boat, ferry or dredge.  There are a variety of jobs on these ships so if you are interested in this line of work I’m sure you could find something to do as a career.  A few merchant marines work as captains of those civilian ships, guiding the ship and commanding the crew in order the get the job done.  More of them serve as mates, which are assistants to the captains.  These people are in training to one day become a captain of their own ship.  Just like on the Oregon II there are also engineers and deck workers in the merchant marines.  Engineers are expected to keep the machinery running while the deck workers do the heavy lifting on the deck and keep the ship in good condition by performing general maintenance.

During this cruise I have met a lot of people who have different jobs all of which are related to collecting scientific data.  The bridge is wonderfully staffed by members of the NOAA Corps.  These men and women train hard to be able to sail research ships around the world.  To find out more about a profession with the NOAA Corps go visit the Corps’ webpage.  There are a large number of scientists on board.  These scientists all specialize in the marine environment and there are many wonderful universities which offer degrees for this field of study.  Go here to get some more information on this scientific pursuit.  The engineers and deck crew keep the ship running. To learn about these professions go to The United States Merchant Marines Academy.  The stewards are instrumental in keeping the crew going on a daily basis by providing good healthy meals.  To learn more about working as a steward read about the Navy culinary school.  The ship could not continue to operate without each of these workers.  Nobody is more or less important than the next–they survive as a group and if they cannot work together the ship stops operating.

Personal Log

Well my journey has come to an end and it is bitter-sweet.  While I’m happy to be back on land, I’m sad to say goodbye to all of the wonderful people on the Oregon II.  When I was starting this adventure I thought two weeks was going to be a long time to be at sea, yet it went by so fast.  Although I’m tired, my sleep and eating schedule are all messed up, and I have some wicked bruises, I would do it again.  I had a great time and in a couple of years I have a feeling I will be once again applying for the Teacher at Sea Program.

It should be no surprise to those that know me best that I love animals which is why I volunteer at the zoo and travel to distant locations to see animals in the wild.  So my favorite part of the trip was seeing all the animals, both those that came out of the sea and those that flew to our deck.  So I’m going to end with a slide show of some amazing animals.

This pelican decided to stop and visit with us for a while.
angel shark
An angel shark
Moray eel
A moray eel
Bat fish
Two bat fishes of very different sizes.
Sand dollar
A sand dollar
A group of sea birds decide to hitch a ride for a while.

Maria Madrigal: Meet the Scientists: April 1, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Maria Madrigal

NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

April 2-18, 2012

Mission: Comparison of Fishery Independent Sampling Methods

Geographical area of cruise: Tutuila, American Samoa

Science & Technology Log: April 4, 2012

What do you picture when you think of a scientist? Do you imagine a lone individual working in a sterile laboratory,  dressed in a crisp white lab coat? The team of scientists involved in this project are far from that image. What does it take to be a scientist when your laboratory is beneath the ocean waves? Here are some brief bios of the scientists working on the comparative sampling method project to assess the populations of the shallow and deepwater coral reef fishes.

Meet the AUV Scientists

Meet the AUV Team! You’ll notice there is an animal next to each scientist. Each team member was asked to provide an animal that is part of the coral reef ecosystem that best represents who they are or how they contribute to the team.


Rock Mover Wrasse
Rock Mover Wrasse

Coral Reef Representative:

It is solitary and lives in semi exposed reef flats or lagoons. As juveniles, they resemble drifting pieces of algae not only in appearance but also in movement. Adults are wary and will dive into the sand if pursued. They have strong powerful jaws that allow them to turn over rocks in search of prey. Ben described them as little engineers that move and build things. Essentially, they get things done much like a chief scientist must do to successfully complete his/her mission.

Organization: Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC)

 Job Title: Research Fisheries Biologist

 Education: Bachelor of Arts in Marine Ecology & Photography from Hampshire College, Master of Science in Coral Reef Ecology from University of Hawaii at Manoa, PhD in Ecology & Zoogeography of Large Bodied Fishes from University of Hawaii at Manoa.

 Main Duties on this project: Experiment design and coordination of logistics and field operations in conjunction with Co-Chief Scientist.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Explorer like Jacques Cousteau

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Experience new cultures. Start traveling internationally at an earlier age.

Favorite thing about his job: Going to sea. Exploring new places. Coming up with interesting questions and figuring out the answers.



Coral Reef Representative:

John likes the octopus because it is versatile, clever, and always seems to have a Plan B and Plan C. If you catch one it will wriggle like crazy. If that doesn’t work, it’ll start crawling across your face or squirt ink and swim away. If you put a fish in an aquarium it stays. An octopus will crawl out. Ok… so maybe that’s not necessarily the smartest thing under the circumstances, but John admires the attitude.

Organization: Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR)

Job Title: Benthic Habitat Characterization Ecologist

Education: Bachelor of Science in Geology from Tulane University, Master of Science in Biological Oceanography from University of Hawaii, PhD in Coastal Geology from University of Hawaii.

Main Duties on this project: Helps with any tasks on deck including the launching and retrieval of the AUV. He is also part of the decision making process in setting mission priorities.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Spy or Archeologist

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Pursue what you are most passionate about and worry less on whether you can get a job doing it later.

Favorite thing about his job: He likes the trips, the diving and the people. One of his favorite projects involved researching more technical SCUBA diving techniques to be able to do deeper dives.


Yellow Boxfish
Yellow Boxfish

Coral Reef Representative:

Boxfishes do not have scales but rather have fused bony plates that give them their box-like appearance. They are slow swimmers and hover around the coral reef which gives them a “quirky” appearance which is how Liz describes herself. When it comes to science, being “quirky” or different is a good characteristic to possess. Scientists need to be able to think or see things differently. Quirkiness is ingenuity at its best.

Organization: Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC)

Job Title: Senior Scientist/Supervisory Research Fish Biologist

Education: Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from University of California at Irvine, Master of Science in Fisheries Biology from University of Alaska at Fairbanks, PhD in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Main Duties on this project: She originally created the  AUV team for the NWFSC. Currently, the NWFSC and the PIFSC jointly operate the AUV and support each other’s research missions.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Nancy Drew

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself… Aim higher. She realized she had low expectations for herself. She also would say to take a step back and take the time to explore what you are passionate about doing in life. Allow yourself the latitude to investigate what that passion is even if it slows you down for a little bit. You’ll find your pathway.

Favorite thing about her job: Going out to sea.


Chromodoris fidelis

Coral Reef Representative:

Nudibranchs are some of the most beautiful molluscs. Their bright coloration actually serves as a warning to its predators that they are toxic or distasteful. They lead secretive lives under and amongst the coral reefs. Jeremy likes that they are not the most common thing that people will look for in a coral reef. They are like diamonds in the rough. This relates to the hidden mastery that comes when writing the “script” (the driving instructions written in code) for the AUV.

Organization: Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR)

Job Title: Mapping Specialist

Education: Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Cornell University with a double minor in Computer Science and Life Sciences

Main Duties on this project: Write the scripts to process the AUV data.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Marine Biologist

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Computer Science is the way to go.

Favorite thing about his job: He is constantly learning.


Black Triggerfish
Black Triggerfish

Coral Reef Representative:

Trigger fish get their name from their ability to lock their dorsal spine into position and “trigger” an adjacent spine. They have strong powerful jaws that allow them to squirt jets of water at sea urchins. They work tenaciously until they flip the sea urchin and expose its softer side. This tenacity reflects Erica’s work ethic. They also show parental care which demonstrates Erica’s caring nature as she has made me feel welcome right from the start of this journey.

Organization: Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC)

Job Title: Research Fisheries Biologist

Education: Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from Auburn University, Master of Science in Marine Resource Management with a focus on Commercial Fisheries from Oregon State University.

Main Duties on this project: To run and maintain vehicle.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Dolphin Trainer at Sea World

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Keep doing what you want to do. You can make a career with what you like. You don’t have to sit at a desk. There are lots of jobs that have outside components.

Favorite thing about her job: There is always something new everyday; different places and animals. You never know what may be coming up next.



Coral Reef Representative:

Curt chose the cuttlefish because he has always been impressed by their cryptic ability and voracious appetite. Its prey is paralyzed by poisonous saliva or crushed by the strong beak. Cuttlefish along with the other familiar cephalopods like the squid and octopus (head-footed molluscs) are believed to be the smartest invertebrates. It has a large brain that can process lots of information that aids in its speedy escape response and predatory tactics. Just like the cuttlefish, Curt has the ability to interpret plenty of data collected by the AUV.

Organization: Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC)

Job Title: Information Technology Specialist

Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology from Arizona State University, Master of Science in Marine Resource Management from Oregon State University and double minor in Fisheries & Wildlife and Earth Information Science & Technology (GIS)

Main Duties on this project: Technical support for the AUV

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Fighter Pilot

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Travel more

Favorite thing about his job: The variety and diversity of the projects that are assigned to him.


Yellowfin Tuna
Yellowfin Tuna

Coral Reef Representative:

Its body is designed for speed. It is a schooling fish and is frequently seen with other species of fish but also associates with dolphins. Allen’s father, Bell Shimada, made a distinctive mark in the study of Pacific tropical tuna stocks.  Allen chose the Tuna because he likes looking at the bigger picture. It is something he must do as his work is to represent and work with all six fisheries science centers.

Organization: NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service

Job Title: Fisheries Biologist (Management)

Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology from Northwestern University, Bachelor of Science in Fisheries from University of Washington, Master of Science in Marine Policy from University of Washington.

Main Duties on this project: Observational. He helps all six fisheries science centers get the resources they need to conduct their projects.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Marine Biologist

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Go straight to University of Washington and begin with fisheries

Favorite thing about his job: Going out to sea.

Lindsay Knippenberg: Women are taking over the Dyson! September 15, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lindsay Knippenberg
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4 – 16, 2011

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: September 15, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 55.41 N
Longitude: -167.98
Wind Speed: 25.86 kts
Wave Height: 10 – 13ft with some larger wind-blown waves
Surface Water Temperature: 8.7 C
Air Temperature: 8.7 C

Science and Technology Log

Real women aren't afraid of piles of jellyfish.
Real women aren't afraid of piles of jellyfish.

I will admit that before I met the scientists and crew onboard the Dyson I had imagined that the majority of the people on the boat would be men. I had wrongly gone along with the stereotypical view that scientists, engineers, fishermen, and the crew onboard ships were mostly men. Therefore when I finally met the people who I would be sailing with for the next two weeks, I was surprised and very happy to see that women had taken over the Dyson. For example, of the 12 scientists onboard the Dyson for this cruise, 9 are women including the Chief Scientist who is in charge of us all.

The seabird observers looking for birds.
The seabird observers looking for birds.

On the ship there are also NOAA Corps officers. The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. Officers can be found operating one of NOAA’s 18 ships or 12 aircraft to provide support to meet NOAA’s missions. Their duties and areas of operations can range from launching a weather balloon at the South Pole, conducting fishery surveys in Alaska, maintaining buoys in the tropical Pacific, to flying P-3 Hurricane Hunter airplanes into hurricanes. I have met several NOAA Corps officers while I have been at NOAA and they have mostly been men. I was excited to see that of the six officers onboard the Dyson three are women.

NOAA Corps Officers - Rene, Sarah, and Amber taking a break from their duties to pose for a picture.
NOAA Corps Officers - Rene, Sarah, and Amber taking a break from their duties to pose for a picture.

There are also several other women onboard the Dyson and my mission today was to meet some of these amazing women and interview them to see what they do onboard the Dyson and what motivated them to choose this as their career. Let’s meet them:

Name: Ellen Martinson

Hometown: Juneau, AK

Position: Research Fisheries Biologist and Chief Scientist for Leg 2 of BASIS

Ellen showing off a tiny squid that she was measuring on the scale.
Ellen showing off a tiny squid that she was measuring on the scale.

Ellen has always loved solving puzzles and has had a curiosity for nature and how it works. That love of nature and problem solving led her to become a fisheries biologist. She has worked at NOAA since 1995 and she does research to support the management of federally-controlled commercial fisheries. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate and is doing her research and dissertation on developing indexes of ecosystem health in the Bering Sea that includes climate and fish growth factors. Pollock is her species of choice and she is looking at the success rate of Age 0 (zero) pollock surviving their first year to become Age 1 pollock as a prediction of the future health of the commercial pollock fishery.

What does she like the best about her job? She gets to work with a variety of people ranging from scientists and fisheries managers to fishermen and even teachers like me. She listens to their problems and ideas and then looks for the important questions to address all of those viewpoints. She also gets to travel to a lot of cool places, learn new things from a variety of topics, and her job is often an adventure. How did she get such a cool job? Going to college is the first step. Ellen has a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology and a master’s degree in Fisheries Resources. She is currently finishing up her Ph.D. at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and then she will be Dr. Martinson.

Name: Kerri Curtin

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Position: Able-Bodied Seawoman

Kerri tying up the trawl net after pulling in a big haul of salmon.
Kerri tying up the trawl net after pulling in a big haul of salmon.

Kerri is one tough cookie. All week I have been amazed by her as she shuffled around the back deck pulling in fishing nets, lifting heavy science equipment, and tying all different types of knots. She is the only able-bodied seawoman onboard and her responsibilities include various deck maintenance jobs, setting up the nets for fishing and bringing in the catch, tying and untying the boat when we are at port, serving time on the bridge as an observer, and helping to launch the small boats. Her favorite part about her job is that she gets to go to work at sea and be outside in the fresh air. She also gets to travel to unique places and see the world. So far her favorite place that she has been to are the Greek Isles. How do you get a job like this? Kerri went to school in Maryland at Seafarers International and did an apprenticeship program. Through that program she gained the basic training necessary to get an entry-level position on a boat. Since then, she has continued her training and has taken several other Coast Guard certification tests. All her time at sea and trainings have paid off because she just received her 3rd Mates license.

Name: Amber Payne

Hometown: Fenton, MI

Position: Navigation Officer

Amber is in control of the Oscar Dyson as the trawl net is being brought in.
Amber is in control of the Oscar Dyson as the trawl net is being brought in.

Amber is a NOAA Corps officer onboard the Dyson. Her job as the Navigation Officer is to plot all the routes that the ship takes on paper and electronically. She also updates all the charting publications and she gets to stand watch on the bridge every day for eight hours. When she is on watch she is responsible for driving the ship and is in charge of all the operations. Amber has been onboard the Dyson for a year and a half and has several favorite things about her job. She likes that being on a ship in the Bering Sea is an adventure that many people may not get experience. She also likes the authority and trust that she is given to correctly navigate and drive the ship when she is all alone on the bridge. How did Amber get from Michigan to navigating a ship through the Bering Sea? Amber went to a four-year college in St. Petersburg, FL and studied Marine Biology. While in college she joined the search and rescue team and learned a lot about driving small boats. She knew that she wanted to go into a career that included both boats and science and her college advisor told her about the NOAA Corps. She applied to the NOAA Corps after graduation, was accepted, spent 4 months in basic trainings with the NOAA Corps, and then was placed on a ship. She loves that she gets to be a part of scientific research going on in the Bering Sea and she gets to drive boats all as a part of her job.

Name: Wendy Fellows

Hometown: Liberty Lake, WA

Position: Junior Engineer

Wendy has a lot of screens and buttons to monitor when she is on watch.
Wendy has a lot of screens and buttons to monitor when she is on watch.

When I first met Wendy she was sitting in the galley with the other engineers wearing her cover-ups from working in the engine room and I thought to myself, this girl is pretty cool. There aren’t too many female marine engineers and Wendy has a great story. When she graduated from high school she didn’t know what to do. She wanted to see the world so she took a job working in the kitchen of an oil tanker. She traveled all over the world and learned a lot about the different jobs on the ship throughout her journey. Her dad had been a marine engineer and she liked the work that the engineers did, so she went to school at the Seattle Maritime Academy to learn the trade. As a part of a year-long program she became a qualified member of the engineering department and did an internship onboard the Oscar Dyson. She liked it so much that she decided to stay on the Dyson as a Junior Engineer. Her job on board the Dyson is to basically make sure the ship is working properly. She tests emergency batteries, monitors the generators and pumps, services the small boats, fuels the ship when it is in port, fixes random things that break around the ship, and tests the drinking water. Her favorite part about her job is when she gets to use the welding skills she learned onboard the Dyson to fabricate things for the ship or scientists.

Name: Kathy Hough

Hometown: Kodiak, AK

Position: Senior Survey Technician

Kathy is busy on the hero deck connecting plankton nets to be lowered over the side.
Kathy is busy on the hero deck connecting plankton nets to be lowered over the side.

As the senior survey technician onboard the Dyson, Kathy has the responsibility of working with the scientists to insure that the collection of their data goes smoothly. She helps the scientists to collect their data by lowering and monitoring the CTD, helping with the various nets, and making sure that all of the equipment in the labs are functioning properly. She also collects data of her own. As the Dyson cruises around the Bering Sea, Kathy is in charge of collecting the weather and oceanographic data that is sent to scientists and posted on the NOAA Ship Tracker website. What does she like best about her job? Kathy likes the diversity of operations that she gets to be a part of. The science teams that are doing research onboard the Dyson only stay for 2 – 4 weeks and then another team gets on and might be doing a completely different project. As the science teams constantly rotate, Kathy stays on and helps with a variety of projects and different types of scientists. Does this job sound cool to you? To get an entry-level position as a survey technician you need a bachelor’s degree in science or mathematics. Kathy’s background is in ecology/biology, but a background in engineering, mathematics, or chemistry can be helpful too. If you want to move up to be a senior survey technician like Kathy, you need time and experience working on boats and with the instruments the scientists use for their research.

Name: Rachelle Sloss

Hometown: Juneau, AK

Position: Lab/Research Technician

Rachelle with a huge king salmon from one of our hauls.

Rachelle and I have gotten to know each other pretty well these last couple of weeks as we sorted through piles of fish and did a lot of counting to fifty. Rachelle just graduated from college in May and for the past two summers she has worked in the NOAA labs in Juneau as a lab/research technician. She works in a lab that is studying bioenergetics. While onboard the Dyson, she has been collecting and sorting zooplankton and looking for specific species of krill that will be used for bioenergetic experiments back in Juneau. She has also been collecting juvenile fish species like pollock and herring for similar experiments. While at the lab back in Juneau, Rachelle does lipid class analyses of fish to look at the energy content of their lipids by season. Does this sound like a cool summer job? Rachelle thinks that it is because she gets to work with some really cool people, she is gaining great experience for the future, and she got to spend two weeks on the Bering Sea seeing tons of species of fish. What lies ahead for Rachelle? She got a degree in Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology from Whitman College and is thinking about becoming a high school science teacher. For now she is headed to a much warmer South America and will be traveling around for the next couple of months on her next adventure.

Personal Log

We finally made it back to land and now we are all heading off in opposite directions towards home.
We finally made it back to land and now we are all heading off in opposite directions towards home.

By now I am safely back to my warm living room and I owe all of the women above and the men of the Oscar Dyson my deepest gratitude. I had an incredible adventure on the Bering Sea and I learned so much. Even though we had some rough seas, I still loved seeing all the different fish that we caught in our nets and I loved being a part of a research project that has so much importance to our fisheries. The NOAA Corps officers, crew, and scientists were all incredible teachers and had a lot of patience as they took time out of their day to answer all of my questions. I can’t wait to share my experiences with my students and other teachers and I couldn’t be more thankful for the experiences that I gained as a NOAA Teacher at Sea.

Elizabeth Warren, July 15, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

Mission: Reef Fish Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July, 15 2010

A case of the Upy-Downy’s

By breakfast on the last day we had already spotted land.

Land Spotted
Land Spotted
Crew of the Pisces
Crew of the Pisces

I went up to the flying deck and could not have been more disappointed to see the Mississippi Coast. I couldn’t believe how quickly my trip went by. I learned a lot!

Scientists on my cruise
Scientists on my cruise

The crew of the Pisces and the NOAA scientists were some of the nicest (even with all the teasing) people I have ever met. I’m so grateful that I was able to have this experience. I said goodbye to as many of the crew I could find, many take off as soon as they get into port or go to sleep, and each one told me I should come back again. I would love to! I’ve already asked and plan on applying again for next year.

Now, I’m home in Seattle, Washington. . As I was flying in,  I was greeted by one of the reasons I live on the West Coast.

Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier

As a result of having been aboard a ship,  I have a case of the upy-downy’s (getting my land legs back). The world keeps moving like I’m still on board the ship. The upy downy’s are also affecting my mood.  I’m happy to be home, sleep in a real bed, see my family and my neph-puppy but I’m also sad that my adventure is over. I can’t wait to get back in the classroom and share all that I have learned with my students!

Thank you for reading my blog and again thank you to NOAA and the Pisces!