Shelby Bowden: Explorer-in-Training Profile

Explorer-in-Training Shelby Bowden

Meet Explorer-in-Training Shelby Bowden, who served as a map watchstander during the 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas expedition. Read the full text of Shelby's interview below to learn more about his experiences on the ship.


About Shelby's Role

Where were you stationed and what were your duties as an Explorer-in-Training?

I boarded NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in Saipan, CNMI, for a three-week program before departing in Guam. It was definitely the best work location I have ever been in. Even with a delayed cruise and multiple complications, the beauty and activities on the islands made every day amazing. 

On the ship I was a mapping watchstander which included duties such as multibeam, singlebeam, and sub bottom profiler data acquisition; data processing using CARIS HIPS & SIPS and Fledermaus software; maintaining processing logs; conducting XBT casts (used in calculating sound velocity in the water column); sun photometer readings for NASA; and eating, lots of eating. 


What is your academic history and what are your future plans?

I received my B.S. in Geology and the Environmental Geosciences with a concentration in marine and coastal geology from the College of Charleston in 2016. 

I have decided to take a year off before graduate school so that I can publish several manuscripts I have been working on but didn't have the time to publish during my undergraduate studies. My year off will also give me the opportunity to gain more field and teaching experience.

In 2017, I hope to enter a Ph.D. program in geologic oceanography and one day become a professor. 


What sparked your initial interest in ocean sciences?

Since I was young, most of my free time has been spent in or near water. Living in upstate South Carolina, this usually meant a lake or river, but at least once a year my family would make it to the coast. I was SCUBA certified at 10, have logged hundreds of dives, and don't remember ever not being able to swim.

Throughout my life, my passion for the ocean has only increased and I decided to go to college in a coastal town. Early in college, I took a marine geology class with Dr. Leslie Sautter and was immediately captivated by every aspect of the class (except maybe identifying and counting hundreds of foraminifera). I leaned more in my marine geology class than any other class in college, and the varied and number of research opportunities related to the ocean made me pursue an education focused on ocean studies.

I continued to take and then serve as a teaching assistant for Dr. Sautter's other marine-related classes which included seafloor mapping, seafloor mapping research, coastal geology research, and a number of independent coastal and continental shelf research projects. I loved every class and research project I was a part of and am excited about every opportunity to study the ocean. Geologic oceanography combines my two academic passions in an awesome work environment. 


What is your favorite aspect of living on a ship?

I arrived early in Saipan so I could explore the island before the cruise, and being an island, all the food there was very expensive for a poor student like me. During that week, my meals mostly consisted of some form of canned meat (at least that's what the labels said it was), but once I got on the boat, I was exposed to almost limitless, delicious food.

The food on board was definitely a great aspect of the boat, but I also really enjoyed how well you can get to know people on board. The crew and scientists are a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and experiences, and being in a small space with them for an extended period of time exposes you to lots of new viewpoints and mindsets. It was a very eye opening and neat learning experience.


How do you see this experience fitting in with your future career plans?

Prior to the cruise on the Okeanos Explorer, I had only participated in inshore hydrographic and research cruises. Being on a much larger ship in >1,000-meter water depth greatly increased my oceanographic field experience. Having a stronger field background will grow my academic understanding in my field and help launch my career as an oceanographer. Furthermore, the contacts I have made with the crew and scientists on board will be invaluable for the rest of my life. 


For More Information

Related Ocean Explorer Content

2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas


Print and Web Resources

NOAA Education Resources
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