NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
April 7 – May 1, 2014
Science and Technology: The NOAA Corps!
While the scientist do their work there is a very important group of folks that take care of getting the ship where it needs to be and ensuring the scientists have the best opportunity to get their work done. That group is the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. NOAA Corps is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. NOAA has roots as far back as 1807 as the Survey of the Coast under president Thomas Jefferson, and then a branch called the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey during WWI & WWII eras. The current NOAA & NOAA Corps came into existence in 1970 and has been providing leadership and support necessary for the day to day operations associated with the various NOAA Research Platforms. The NOAA fleet is comprised of 19 ships and 12 aircraft. One of the most important requirements for joining the NOAA Corps is that each officer has to have have a college degree in science, math or engineering. NOAA Officers go through an intense demanding fast paced training that includes formal classroom instruction as well as approximately 5 months of officer candidate school that focuses on officer bearing and leadership development as well as marine and nautical skills training at U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Once they have completed their training, the NOAA Corps Officers will be assigned to a NOAA ship for 2 years of sea duty where they learn how to operate the ship. After the officer’s sea duty they are assigned to a 3 year land assignment where they get to apply their degrees doing more hands on scientific work like working in a fisheries lab, weather service, or doing atmospheric studies.
Meet some of the NOAA Corps Officers that are assigned to NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.
Meet Ensign, or first officer rank, Roxanne Carter! Roxanne join the NOAA Corps in 2012 because she wanted to learn how to drive a ship, conduct more field work, and legally follow marine mammals. Prior to joining, Roxanne was the director of a small environmental company for 7 years working in the Marine Endangered Species division. She also worked in fisheries at the NOAA Marine Operations Center – Atlantic or MOC-A as an Operations Manager in Norfolk, VA. where she assisted with all the marine center’s activities. Roxanne has also done a lot of volunteering with various marine mammal agencies. She has a Masters Degree in Biology and Marine Ecology. Although Biology was not her favorite subject, she knew that once she got her degree, there would be many cool opportunities in that field. Roxy as she is called on the ship, is in charge of the ship’s store along with her regular ship duties. Just last week Roxy also earned her OOD or Officer of the Deck Qualification Letter, by conducting several practical and oral exercises which she has to successfully pass. Earning her OOD means her fellow officers feel comfortable with her up on the bridge unsupervised maintaining the operation of the vessel and the safety of the people on board.
Meet Operations Officer Lieutenant Marc Weekley! Marc join the NOAA Corps in 2006. He has been stationed on the Gordon Gunter for one year. Marc’s job as Operations Officer on the ship is to communicate between the crew and officers and the scientist coming on to the ship. He mainly needs to work out any questions or details before the ship gets under way. He also organizes port logistics which means he makes port arrangements in various locations between the ships cruises. Before Marc was assigned sea duty on the Gordon Gunter he was vessel operations coordinator for the Manta which is a small boat for one of NOAA’ s sanctuary offices. Although his position was similar to this one he also tracked the overall cost of the vessel, making sure that it met safety requirements. Prior to joining NOAA Marc worked full time at an Environmental Lab, part time at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa and was a Dive Instructor in both the Caribbean and West Coast of Mexico. He decided to join NOAA Corps because he wanted the opportunity to operate research vessels at sea and in the air. He likes the idea that being a NOAA Corps officer incorporates science, math or engineering and ship operations. Because of his scientific background and training as a ship driver in the NOAA Corps, he is better able to maximize the scientists’ time while on the ship and further facilitate their research efforts.
Meet Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Reni Rydlewicz! After interviewing Reni, I can tell you that Fisheries is her love. Reni Joined the NOAA Corps in 2009. Prior to joining the NOAA Corps, Reni had a variety of jobs working as a seasonal field biologist. She worked with state and federal government programs and contractors including NOAA Fisheries as a Federal Observer, dockside Monitor, Area Coordinator dockside monitor, fisheries observer and coordinator. She also worked with birds deer and fish anywhere from the east Coast, Mid-west to Alaska. Reni became interested in joining the Corps after meeting a retired NOAA captain at the local American Legion who told her “The Corps is perfect for you”. Reni had heard of the Corps years before, but after speaking with the retired captain, she decided to apply as it gave her the flexibility to rotate every few years to new roles but still give a sense of permanency. Since she has been in the Corps, Reni has worked as a Navigation Officer aboard the Miller Freeman and Oscar Dyson. She currently is serving her land tour as Communications and Outreach Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries, West Coast Region. In 2015, Reni expects to be Operations Officer on the Oregon II.
Meet Ensign (ENS) David Wang! David joined NOAA Corps in 2013. Prior to joining NOAA, Ensign Wang was working as a real estate agent while looking for career opportunities in the marine science field. Ensign Wang also pursued an opportunity to start a mussel aquaculture company in, RI , as well as worked as a deckhand aboard the lobster fishing vessel. David graduated from Long Island University, Southampton with a undergraduate degree in Marine Science. David completed his Masters in 2010 in Fisheries Biology at California State University, Northridge. David joined the NOAA Corps after hearing from a friend who joined about the opportunities to travel all over the world, change jobs every 2-3 years from ship to land, while also still being involved in science. Before David was assigned to the Gordon Gunter, he worked at a NOAA port office in Pascagoula, MI, at a marine support facility taking care of the needs of 3 ships, the Pisces, Oregon II and Gordon Gunter.
The beginning of this week was completely amazing! While in Canadian waters we had warm, sunny, calm seas perfect for seeing lot of mammals. During the stint of nice weather we had multiple days where we saw many sightings. On the top two days we had 97 and 171 sightings of whales and dolphins! That doesn’t even count the cool birds we saw like my favorite the Puffins. The birders were also lucky enough to see a rare bird called a Petrel, the only one of 4 recent sightings in the U.S and the first recent in Canada. I spent most of those days on the fly bridge from breakfast to sunset trying to take in as much as possible. Although it is difficult to get good pictures with a regular camera there are several folks that have very nice cameras or are professional photographers who have taken some great shots. Towards the end of the week the weather turned again and found us in a storm that was predicted to be mild getting bigger and stronger. The NOAA Corps Captain and crew navigated our ship to safely, but the storm did damage to one of the generators forcing us back to Cape Cod Bay for some repairs. I actually spent a few days in my cabin feeling a bit sea sick which was very surprising given my Island upbringing. Now I am feeling better as we are on anchor and patiently waiting for repairs and notification about what we will do next.