Ellen O’Donnell: All Good Things Come to an End, May 23, 2012


NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ellen O’Donnell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
May 14 – May 25, 2012

Mission: North Atlantic Right Whale Survey
Geographical area of the cruise: Atlantic Ocean; Georges Basin heading back to Woods Hole
Date: May 23, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge: Light winds, fog, ocean swells between 3 to 5 feet.

Science and Technology Log:

Tropical Storm Alberto brought in a low pressure system so Tuesday evening we headed back to Provincetown to wait out the effects. It takes about 12 hours to get between Georges Basin and Provincetown. We spent the day in port and everyone caught up on work and reading. It was a welcome rest from the excitement of the past 4 days.

Beth Josephson consolidating ocean survey data from around the US

Tuesday evening we pulled up anchor and headed back out to our right whale spot. Unfortunately, the fog creeped in and it was decided to head back to Woods Hole and cut our survey short. I have to say I am disappointed, but Mother Nature isn’t always cooperative and you can’t beat our previous successful days. While my trip is just about over, the scientists still have a great deal to do. The photos need to be matched up with known right whale individuals, whale poop and biopsies need to be analyzed, and reports need to be written. Data collection is very important, but don’t forget you need to handle the data correctly in order to make correct conclusions.

Being a NOAA scientist is a very exciting career. For many of these folks, this research survey was one of many. Two of our group will be doing an aerial survey next week searching for previously tagged seals. Other future trips include going to New Zealand on a southern right whale survey trip, and a trip to Alaska on an arctic ocean mammal survey. These people not only get to travel around the world, but they are top in their field and really making a difference in conserving our ocean environment. I feel incredibly lucky to have been one of their team on this survey cruise. It has definitely been an opportunity of a lifetime.

The scientist crew aboard the Delaware II including me!

Personal Log:

It has been fascinating learning about NOAA. While I have always heard of this organization, and even used their materials for lesson plans, I never fully understood its place in our government until now.

 NOAA’s Mission:

Science, Service, and Stewardship
To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts,
To share that knowledge and information with others, and
To conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources

So I have mentioned three key groups that are important to this organization; the scientists, the NOAA Commissioned Corps, and the wage mariners. I already mentioned the scientists so now I’ll explain about the NOAA  Corps. The NOAA  Corps is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. Officers operate ships, fly aircraft, facilitate research projects, conduct diving operations, and serve in staff positions throughout NOAA. To be eligible for the NOAA corps you need to have a baccalaureate degree, preferably in a major course of study related to NOAA’s scientific or technical activities. You also need a certain number of science and math course work hours while at college. Once accepted, recruits attend a 4-5 month training camp, and then are placed on a 2 to 3 year permanent assignment aboard a NOAA research vessel. Here is a link to a great video which describes the NOAA Officer Corps program. If only I were younger! http://www.corpscpc.noaa.gov/flash/recruit_video.html

Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Sean Cimilluca

Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Rick Hester and Ensign Junie Cassone on the bridge

You can also be a part of NOAA by becoming a wage mariner. Wage mariners are civilians who perform various functions within NOAA. Civilian vessel jobs include deck mates, engineers, stewards, survey and electronic technicians. I talked about several of these groups in my previous blogs. The wage mariner program is a great way to see the world without joining the Corps. Some wage mariners stay with one vessel for many years, whereas others put themselves in a pool where they travel to whatever ship may need them. Here is a link to watch a video about the wage mariner program. http://www.moc.noaa.gov/shipjobs/WMvideos/WMv3_Complete_640x480_Caps.mov

So it’s hard to believe my trip is coming to an end. I can’t thank NOAA enough for this opportunity and I can’t wait to bring what I’ve learned into the classroom. This has been a rich experience for me that I will never forget. Memories of trying to walk normally on a rocking ship, to getting within 15 feet of a right whale, and working with these dedicated people will be with me for the rest of my life!

Right Whale in front of the Delaware II

3 responses to “Ellen O’Donnell: All Good Things Come to an End, May 23, 2012

  1. Congratulations on your successful research cruise and best wishes with your future students!

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