- INDEX-SATAL 2010
- Mission Logs
- July 7
Cast of Characters
by Dave Lovalvo, ROV Operations Coordinator
July 7, 2010
A spectacular photo of the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer control room while ROV operations are underway. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 416 KB).
Many people are curious as to the cast of characters that make an operation like this work. Cast in this case, is a very appropriate term. There is no single individual, no star of the show. It’s teamwork, with numerous players, many of which are behind the scenes both on the ship and on the shore.
As the lead, chosen to oversee and supervise the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations for NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, I have been privileged to put together a small portion of this team – the people who work directly with our underwater equipment.
With 35 years in the business of supporting science and exploration and working with manned submersibles, underwater habitats, and remote controlled vehicles, I can unequivocally say that it is the people who are our most valuable asset. The talent and the dedication to their craft and the attention to detail this work requires, is in many ways to me, the remarkable story.
For those of you who are at our Exploration Command Centers and are following the day-to-day operations, I hope these biographies give you a sense of who you are working with offshore. For those of you following our website and/or those of you who may now or someday aspire to be part of such a team or a program, perhaps these thumbnail views will give you the inspiration to pursue what for many of us started as nothing more than a dream.
Webb Pinner, Computer Engineer: Webb Pinner is the Remote Exploration Technical Operations Lead for the Ocean Exploration Program. He is a graduate of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering, and is the primary system architect of the telepresence subsystem that is installed on NOAA's state-of-the-art exploration vessel, Okeanos Explorer. He is also the data management systems architect, responsible for working directly with NOAA and the NOAA Central Library to develop and implement a semi-automated system for collecting organizing, cataloging and accessing oceanographic data, high-resolution imagery, and video originating from the ship. He is a veteran of many offshore expeditions and is an accomplished ROV navigator, pilot, and co-pilot, having participated in several cruises to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Black Sea, and the most recent cruise to the RMS Titanic with Dr. Robert Ballard. He is a tireless innovator and the glue that holds this very complex component of our program together. When not at sea, Webb resides in Kingston, Rhode Island. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 398 KB).
Dave Wright, Electrical Engineer: Dave Wright joined the Ocean Exploration Program in 2009, bringing a set of skills that most would envy. A self-taught engineer, he is highly respected in the field of underwater technology, having spent a great deal of time working with Dr. Robert Ballard at the Institute for Exploration and as a valued member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Dave is one of our senior pilots and in addition to being an outstanding and invaluable electrical engineer, he is one of our most valued and respected mentors to the younger generation we seek to train. Dave is a veteran of some of the earlier ocean exploration projects, having served as pilot on the 2004 Titanic cruise, the 2004 and 2005 Mountains in the Sea cruises, and the 2005 cruise to Lost City. He is a co-inventor of the 'Aquatic Autosampler,' a fully automated system for in situ species identification of toxic phytoplankton, which was developed while he worked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. When not on assignment with ocean exploration, Dave resides in Louisville, Kentucky. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 386 KB).
Tom Kok, Mechanical Engineer: Tom Kok comes to the program fresh out of Calvin College, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. After considering a career in the NOAA Corps program, Tom was encouraged to join our ocean exploration team as an ROV systems engineer, working primarily on the mechanical aspects of our equipment. Tom quickly demonstrated his high aptitude for learning new skills and exceeded all of our expectations. He has immersed himself in every technical aspect of the program and has become an excellent navigator and co-pilot. Tom is also one of three members of our team who has been cross training in the operation of our shipboard-mounted multibeam mapping system and continues to do 'double duty' during our exploration here in Indonesia. When not on assignment for NOAA, Tom resides in Linden, Washington. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 330 KB).
Brian Bingham, Mechanical Engineer: Brian Bingham received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003. After a brief stint at the Ocean Institute in California, Brian was appointed to a post-doc position at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Deep Submergence Lab. He is currently a faculty member at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where he does research on innovative tools for expanding the capabilities of ocean science for exploring, understanding, and protecting the marine environment. His work includes projects on underwater navigation, autonomous vehicles, and sensor integration. Brian's broad experience in the deep-ocean community makes his contributions to the Ocean Exploration Program invaluable. His skill as a navigator, co-pilot, and a very experienced vehicle control engineer are but a few of the talents Brian brings to the group. He is the recipient of the 2010 Hi Chang Chai Excellence in Teaching Award at the University of Hawaii, College of Engineering, which has made him a great fit for our program's dedication and commitment to mentoring young engineers. He is a highly published author and currently serves as the editor of the Marine Technology Society (MTS) Journal. When not on assignment for Ocean Exploration, Brian resides in Honolulu, Hawaii. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 318 KB).
Randy Prickett, Pilot/USN Diver 1st Class: Randy Prickett joined the Ocean Exploration team through an informal collaboration between Ocean Exploration and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institution (MBARI). MBARI is a highly respected organization, well known for not only their major contribution to the exploration of Monterey Bay but also the development of some of the most advanced and innovative technologies used in the understanding of the ocean sciences. As a valued member of MBARI, Randy is an extremely talented pilot, a highly skilled technician, and a veteran of many ROV operations where science and exploration demand the highest level of expertise. His absolute can-do attitude and his rapid grasp of complex systems is attributed to not only to his nine years in the United States Navy, operating and managing complex mixed gas diving operations but also his 13+ years at MBARI as a pilot and systems expert. Randy is one of our pilots for this Indonesia expedition and has proven himself invaluable in the mentoring process of some of our younger and less experienced crew. When not on assignment for Ocean Exploration, Randy resides in Soledad, California. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 376 KB).
Joe Biscotti, Broadcast Engineer: Joe Biscotti is an award-winning broadcast engineer, cameraman, and editor with 31 years of experience in the broadcast media world. Joe has a long history with Good Morning America and ABC News, with many firsts over the course of his career. Joe joined the Ocean Exploration program to help us establish a very high quality standard for our underwater imaging capability and is one of our key underwater camera operators. Recently he has spent a great deal of time in Iraq, Haiti, and the Gulf of Mexico, where his very high standard of expertise is always in demand. He is a member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers and his list of accomplishments include, but are not limited to, an Emmy for ABC Prime Time Live, Emmy nominations nine times for editing and 10 times Emmy nominated for field audio. Joe is also the winner of 10 Cine Golden Eagle awards and when not traveling to the far reaches of the world, he resides in Weston, Florida. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 310 KB).
Joel DeMello, Mechanical Engineer: Joel DeMello joined the Ocean Exploration team shortly after his recent graduation from the College of Engineering and Physical Science program at the University of New Hampshire. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and is a current member of the University of New Hampshire's Robotics Club. In addition to working as a systems engineer and navigator for the ROV team, Joel's experience at the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping has made him a prime candidate for his dual role in the multibeam mapping aspects of our operations. He has previously sailed on the Okeanos Explorer, where he participated in the mapping of the Mendicino and Gorda Ridges in 2009, and he continues to expand his skills as we further explore the waters off the coast of Indonesia. When not on assignment for Ocean Exploration, Joel resides in Durham, New Hampshire. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 623 KB).
Doug Jongeward, Computer Science: Doug Jongeward is a highly skilled IT Specialist with 26 years of experience, 14 of which have been spent as a systems application consultant to NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, in Seattle, Washington. Doug is on loan to the Ocean Exploration Program through an intra-agency agreement that allows us to share expertise across federal government programs. In addition to helping manage the enormous amounts of video and data that is collected each day on board the ship, Doug has also worked with our Remote Exploration Operations Lead to setup our Exploration Command Center (ECC) viewing consoles that are located in Seattle and Jakarta, Indonesia. He also worked with our visiting scientists to help train them on the proper use of these ECCs. When not on loan to Ocean Exploration, Doug resides in Seattle. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 515 KB).
Tom Pierce, Broadcast Engineer: Tom Pierce is an award-winning cinematographer, editor, and broadcast engineer who attended the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Maine, Orono, where he studied television broadcast production, electrical engineering, and computer science. Over the past 25 years, Tom has traveled the globe working on internationally aired documentary and sports programming, including films for National Geographic and the PBS Science Series NOVA. Tom's strong editing background is a key contribution to the intensive editing process our broadcast group must maintain. When not editing, Tom is one of our underwater camera operators who helps to repair and maintain our extensive array of equipment. As an Apple Certified Instructor, he also teaches Digital Media Production at the International Film & Television Workshops in Rockport, Maine, and Southern Maine Community College. When not on assignment with Ocean Exploration, Tom resides in Freeport, Maine. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 726 KB).
Karl McLetchie, Mechanical/Ocean Engineer: Karl McLetchie is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Ocean Engineering and an M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering. After graduating, he worked as an ocean engineer at the MIT Sea Grant Underwater Vehicle Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at The National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology in Oxford, Mississippi, on the development of autonomous underwater vehicles. After joining our team at Ocean Exploration, he quickly put his experience with acoustics and underwater robotics to good use, becoming one of our co-pilots, systems engineers, and vehicle navigators. When not on assignment for Ocean Exploration, Karl resides in Seattle, Washington. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 317 KB).
Eric Prechtl, Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineer: Eric Prechtl is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He holds both a Masters degree and Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Science and Mechanics from Penn State University. Since 2007, he has held a position as an Adjunct Instructor at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, where he teaches courses in Mechanical Design and Mechanical and Aerospace Systems. Eric is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and is a successful recipient of the very competitive government-sponsored Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) research and development programs that award Research & Development funds to small, high-technology companies and research institutions. Eric has joined the Ocean Exploration team as an interdisciplinary talent, in an effort for our program to explore the benefits of crossing traditional boundaries with respect to the talent we seek to explore the world's oceans. He brings a new perspective to the program, with processes and attention to detail our program very much appreciates. He has fast become an excellent navigator and is working with our other teammates to develop ways in which we plan our equipment maintenance, repair, and future system improvements. When not on assignment for Ocean Exploration, Eric resides in Groton, Massachusetts. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 331 KB).
Roland Brian, Electronic Systems Engineer: Roland began his 25-year career in the U.S. Air Force where he specialized in electronics and satellite communications. He is an accomplished field engineer who has not only spent a great deal of time in the broadcast television and satellite communications industry but also in the design, installation, and ongoing operation of new and emerging teaching and learning technologies. Roland is one of our key underwater video engineers and when he's not fine tuning our underwater video images in the mission control room or improving our onboard video systems, he's actively involved in the editing process of our ever-expanding Ocean Exploration video library. Roland joined the Ocean Exploration team in 2010 and when not on assignment for Ocean Exploration resides in Rochester, New York. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 480 KB).
Dave Lovalvo, ROV Operations Coordinator: Dave Lovalvo is the type of guy who would never write a bio for himself. He won't tell you that he won't write it; he'll just let time drag on and laugh when you ask him the fifth time for it. He also won't offer to tell you all the amazing things that he's done...but there are plenty. He'll never gloat and he won't let his guys down. He is a man who will spend hours writing the bios for every one of his crew, and he'll enjoy it. People turn toward him to make things happen...and happen well. Dave Lovalvo has been exploring the oceans for decades. He doesn't do it for the fame or the accolades; he does it because it fascinates him and he loves his Team. For that, we are all very fortunate. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, INDEX-SATAL 2010. Download larger version (jpg, 333 KB).