Gulf of Mexico 2017





NOAA Opportunities to Study the Ocean

Alex and other members of the on-ship team receive training from Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration engineer Roland Brian in the Okeanos' control room.

Alex and other members of the on-ship team receive training from Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration engineer Roland Brian in the Okeanos Explorer's control room. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017. Download larger version (jpg, 13.7 MB).

December 12, 2017

Alexandra M. Avila
Ph.D. Student, NOAA Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar
Oregon State University

Every day I get to go out on the ocean I feel like the luckiest person in the world!

Alex retrieves a crinoid sample that was collected during a dive.

Alex retrieves a crinoid sample that was collected during a dive. Click image for credit and larger view.

NOAA scholarships have given me opportunities that I would have never even dreamed possible. I have been fortunate enough to receive two NOAA scholarships. The Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholarship External Link from the Oregon Sea Grant College Program External Link, part of NOAA Sea Grant College Program, and has provided funding for my PhD research on how ocean currents are affecting larval dispersal of rockfish, a commercially important species, and how those currents connect marine protected areas along the Oregon and Washington coasts.

The Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program, from NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, is a scholarship that has greatly impacted my life. Without this scholarship, I would not have been able to go to graduate school and would not have been able to travel and learn about our many national marine sanctuaries and learn about the importance of outreach and good science communication skills.

I am currently serving aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in the Gulf of Mexico, as part of a program collaboration opportunity that was given to me as a Dr. Nancy Foster scholar. I’m here to assist with data logging and sample processing. At the end of the expedition, I will write a report that will help prioritize data for researchers, ensuring that the data can be efficiently used.

The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Gulf of Mexico 2017 expedition runs through December 21, 2017. During the expedition, scientists are investigating deep-sea habitats and the associated marine communities in the Gulf of Mexico basin. Through the Okeanos expedition, other researchers and I are exploring and discovering vulnerable marine habitats and investigating areas relevant to resource managers, submerged cultural heritage sites, and marine protected areas. The Okeanos is equipped with telepresence, meaning people on shore with Internet access – whether it be scientists or the general public – can watch the remotely operated vehicle dives live in real time.

On December 12, at 2:00 pm EST (11:00 am PST), we will conduct a Facebook Live event from the Okeanos Explorer in the Gulf of Mexico. Science co-lead Dr. Diva Amon, Expedition Coordinator Brian Kennedy, and I will be there to answer everyone’s questions!

For daily updates from the Gulf expedition, find me on Twitter (@MarineBioAlex External Link), or follow Diva (@DivaAmon External Link) and the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (@oceanexplorer External Link).

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