Science at Sea: USC Rossier Alumna with NOAA's Teacher at Sea Program
I applied to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Teacher at Sea Program because I wanted to develop professionally in the oceanography field in a setting that allows me to be actively involved in current scientific research. If you are interested in participating in the program, here is a look at what the program is all about, what I gained from the overall experience, how to apply and what to expect if you participate in the program.
About the Teacher at Sea Program
The mission of NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program is to provide teachers with hands-on, real-world research experience working at sea with world-renowned NOAA scientists, thereby giving them insight into crucial oceanic and atmospheric research. The program provides a unique opportunity for kindergarten through college-level teachers to travel aboard NOAA research ships to work under the tutelage of scientists and crew.
Since its inception in 1990, NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program has enabled nearly 700 teachers to gain firsthand experience in science and life at sea. By participating in this program, teachers profoundly enrich their classroom curricula, enhance their approaches to teaching science and engage their local community with knowledge that can only be gained by living and working side-by-side, day and night, with scientists who contribute to the world's oceanic and atmospheric scientific research.
Participants can expect to be at sea anywhere from one week to one month, with the average cruise lasting 12 to 14 days. Most participants try to sail on cruises offered during the summer vacation, but cruises take place throughout most of the year on a first-come, first-served basis.
My Experience at Sea
After I was selected for the Teacher at Sea program, I was assigned to a research expedition. The research team that I was working with was focused on monitoring the fishery-relevant components of the Northeast Shelf ecosystem.
Each of the 10 scientists on board focused on a different area of research. They looked at the biogeochemistry of the ocean, photographed phytoplankton and measured dissolved carbon to examine how it related to climate change and ocean acidification.
I was involved in determining the effects of biological and physical processes on the recruitment of Northeast shelf fishes, especially gadoids. One of the highlights of the experience was being able to interview all the people that were aboard the research vessel — stewards, engineers, officers and scientists. I truly felt part of the scientific research team.
Now, as a Marine Biology Research Methods Instructor during the summer, I am translating many of the techniques that I learned during my cruise into classroom activities. For example, during my Teacher at Sea program, the participants and I did more than 150 plankton tows. I plan on doing a plankton tow in the classroom with either live plankton or perhaps something that mimics it and have my students experience sorting. I also learned about plankton biodiversity, and I would like students to understand the various types and their roles in the food web. In addition, I was introduced to the application of biogeochemistry in the ocean and the roles that nitrogen, silica, carbon dioxide and phosphorus play in the different trophic levels and in different zones of the oceans. I plan on translating many of these concepts not just in my class but also in my STEM program activities.