One of the questions our shipboard scientists frequently receive is: How did you get to there? We asked the scientists aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to tell us their stories. What they had to say is below.
I grew up in the midwest (southern Illinois) and didn't lay eyes on the ocean until I was about 12 years old. I studied geology and minored in physics at Eastern Illinois University. I was very interested in structural geology and volcanology. Honestly, it was just dumb luck when I took on a master's project at Vanderbilt University studying how faults control the location and longevity of deep-sea hydrothermal systems. I later went on to do a PhD in Marine Geology and Geophysics at Columbia University, where I got involved in work using ocean bottom seismometers and hydrophones to study earthquakes in the ocean. Today, I work within the Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at North Carolina State University (https://meas.sciences.ncsu.edu ), and I enjoy studying a wide range of problems – some on land and some in the seas. My best advice for students is to gain a good foundation in the basic sciences, mathematics, and scientific computing; this will open more doors for you and allow you to grab new opportunities when they arise.
As a kid (and still), I was fascinated by nature. I loved watching Jacques Cousteau and nature shows with David Attenborough (my hero). In high school, I had an awesome biology teacher who held a field trip every year to the Graduate School of Oceanography in Rhode Island, coincidentally the home of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. This trip brought alive oceanography and marine biology as a science, and it was so cool to talk to graduate students and scientists – and to be encouraged by them! But I went to college in order to become a filmmaker! While there, I took a course in Oceanography and learned about hydrothermal vents and that blew my mind: I had to see these strange and wonderful communities with my own eyes. So I switched to science, got my B.S. degree in Biology and then worked on deep-sea biology for my PhD. I still have that same curiosity and fascination with the natural world and am super excited to be so lucky to be able to explore our deep ocean. Because I am so fortunate, I feel it is important to share that excitement with everyone who is tuning in to the video feeds. Maybe I can inspire some other nature-loving kids to get into a science career!
I always knew that I wanted to be a scientist, but I did not know that I wanted to study the ocean. I started off college as a chemistry major, and then switched to biology, studying cellular and molecular biology. I finally took some ecology and Earth sciences courses, and then – literally in my very last quarter of college – I had the opportunity to study oceanography and sail for five weeks, conducting oceanographic research. I loved it, but it was still six more years before I went to graduate school for Oceanography. I thought I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but every job I had related to the ocean. I worked for a marine conservation non-profit, as a SCUBA instructor, and in aquaculture. When I finally went to graduate school, I spent a lot of time at sea studying deep-sea fish and feel very fortunate that I still get to spend so much time at sea conducting research and working with other deep-sea scientists.
Ever since I was a child, I always loved the ocean. The first time I remember saying I wanted to be a marine scientist was in fifth grade when we were watching a movie in science class called "Voyage of the Mimi." It is about a research vessel that sails down the eastern coast of the U.S. and conducts oceanographic research. It was fascinating and started me down this path. I've also been lucky to have some incredible teachers along the way who helped foster a sense of curiosity and pointed me in the right direction every time I had questions (THANK YOU!). I first fell in love with corals when I learned to scuba dive in the Florida Keys at summer camp. I then studied coral reef ecology in college and graduate school. A couple weeks after defending, I started working for the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and found myself immersed in an entirely new depth – the deep sea. Every day is something new with ocean exploration, so that same sense of curiosity I had as a kid serves me well.
As a native of Long Island, New York, I grew up with a deep appreciation of how our lives are linked between land and sea. I was the kid who came back from a day on the beach covered in mud, reeking of low tide, and smiling from ear to ear. I was lucky and fortunate that my parents (my father even spent some time on NOAA vessels himself!) and teachers encouraged my love for all things in and around the water. My fascination with all things ocean helped me to pursue the geological sciences in college and later with a graduate degree in the marine sciences. Much of the geology I studied in college focused on modeling and examining the history of seas on Earth, recreating their conditions and how they are analogous to current states. My graduate school experience help foster my field and technical skills. I employ them all the time while planning and at sea. Learning ocean mapping was sort of something I landed into in graduate school. My advisor said another colleague had some funding and asked if I wanted to learn how to process hydrographic data...I said I knew nothing about that, but thought it sounded interesting. I grabbed onto the project, supported by excellent mentors, and never let go.