I have been fascinated by the ocean for as long as I can remember. I grew up determined to work in Marine Science. I received my bachelor’s in Marine Science from Coastal Carolina University. I lived off the coast of South Carolina and it was my first real coastal experience having been raised in Ohio. After I graduated, I started my career in Alaska as a fisheries observer. My first at-sea experience was on an ex-cargo ship that was converted into a mothership. It was massive with a length around 680ft. I don’t think one ever forgets their first vessel. For a year and a half, I worked in the Bering Sea on various vessels collecting fisheries data for the National Marine Fisheries Service.
With my offshore experience in Alaska, I was awarded a temporary contract with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), the successor of the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP). I had read about DSDP in my college text books, and I felt like I was working with scientific elites. The expedition for this IODP leg was in the Caribbean Sea. They drilled thousands of meters into volcanic rock pulling up cores of the lithosphere that would reveal millions of years of history.
Enjoying my experiences in warmer climates, my work shifted to seismic survey ships for the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico. Seismic ships towed six miles of hydrophone cables while air guns exploded on varied second intervals. The ships traveled in transects for months (mowing the lawn they’d say) collecting information from beneath the sea floor. The sonic blasts from the air guns can be fatal to marine life. I monitored operations for protected marine species. When a protected animal entered the exclusion zone, it was my responsibility to shut down production.
My experience in seismic survey readied me for a major contract working on the Shell Prospect as a protected species observer in the Chukchi Sea. I sailed on a small supply vessel from Dutch Harbor, Alaska over a thousand miles to the Arctic Ocean. Straddling the International Date Line, I could see Siberia from the ship. One night during transit in Kotzebue Sound, I saw a beam of green waterfalls across the night sky. It was my first time seeing the Aurora Borealis.
In over 500 sea days of experience, I have found there is a camaraderie earned from working at sea. Solid friendships were made with people I spent only a few weeks or one contract with. My network of contacts and friends are from all over the world: many languages fill my Facebook newsfeed.
I was granted a position with the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) in their Acoustics program. I recently relocated from Columbus, Ohio for this incredible opportunity. I will be working at the lab here in Newport, OR and at sea for deployments switching out hydrophones around the world: I am ecstatic! As much as I’ve seen and done, I still feel humbled seeing ships come into port.
Some of my sights from sailing: