Passion and Excitement

This post is part of a series chronicling the September 12-15, 2019 research cruise on board the R/V Oceanus, Oregon State University’s largest research vessel. This cruise was funded by Oregon Legislative funds through the Oceangoing Research Vessel Program. Coordination and additional support was provided by Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

Follow the adventures of the students, educators, and researchers who are on board engaging in #STEMatSea.

By Genevieve Coblentz-Strong

My name is Genevieve and I am a senior in the Early College High School program. I have always had a strong interest in the ocean, and I have wanted to pursue a career in oceanography since seventh grade.

I chose to apply to this R/V Oceanus research cruise for the opportunity to work with scientists doing various research projects and to get the opportunity to meet fellow high school and undergrad students who share my passion and excitement for the ocean. I have not been disappointed! All the students on board have gotten hands-on experience deploying the CTD, box core, and the plankton net, while also learning how to spot and identify marine mammals and sea birds. I can’t imagine a better way to teach students about the ocean and what it takes to be a researcher.

Three people prepare the CTD instrument on deck
Preparing the CTD

Yesterday, we spent the entire morning cruising on the Oceanus looking for whales. Finally, in the early afternoon, we spotted some blows on the horizon. As we got closer, more and more whales started appearing and they were identified as humpbacks. The swell was big, but we braved the waves to go take ID photos of the humpbacks. We boarded a small boat aptly named the Red Rocket. After a few minutes of searching, we came up upon a group of three humpbacks. It was so cool to see the whales up close and I really got an appreciation for how big they are. All three humpbacks fluked at the same time, so we were able to get great ID photos! It was an amazing experience to be able to work with researchers and see the whales that close to the boat. The chief scientist on board has a permit that allows the Oceanus and Red Rocket to approach the whales. It is illegal to approach the whales if you don’t have a permit.

Four people in the red rigid hull inflatable boat
The chief scientist on board has a permit that allows the Oceanus and Red Rocket to approach the whales. It is illegal to approach the whales if you don’t have a permit.

Today, we saw lots of mola mola sunfish, egg yolk jellies, and shearwater birds. Some of the science party was sitting downstairs resting when a text came through from the flying bridge, the viewing deck where we watch for marine mammals and seabirds; orcas had been spotted! Everyone dropped what they were doing and rushed to the flying bridge. There, four orcas swam by the boat and put on a quick show for us before they were on their way again. Before they left, they swam right under the Oceanus and we could see them under the water! It was very exciting! Right before dinner, we spotted our first whales of the day (orcas are dolphins), a humpback mother and calf pair! I can’t get over how incredible these animals are! We waited for the mother and calf to surface a few more times before we headed off in search of more whales.

killer whales
Orcas, or “killer whales”, are the largest member of the dolphin family.

I have learned so much in the past few days! This research cruise has allowed me to explore part of what it takes to be a research scientist and I look forward to the possibility that I could someday work with these scientists and fellow high school students again. 

Genevieve Coblentz-Strong attends Sunset High School and Portland Community College. Genevieve is also a youth volunteer at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and is captain of the Aquarium’s “Nerdi Nautili” National Ocean Sciences Bowl team.

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