Chukchi Borderland Project

Daily Updates from

our Teacher at Sea


September  9


What does it mean to be an Oceanographer?
What kind of jobs did they have along the way?
How did the people on this cruise get into the field of Oceanography?

There are four fields to Oceanography:

1.      Chemical - studies the chemistry of the ocean

2.      Physical - studies currents, waves, and tides.

3.      Biological - studies plankton, mainly

4.      Geological - studies the sediments of the 
ocean floor and plate tectonics

  Each field works together with the other fields, but they look at separate aspects of the oceans.

  To become an Oceanographer, it is a good idea to get an undergraduate degree in physics, biology, chemistry, or geology.  It is a plus to have a strong background in a particular area with an emphasis in oceanography.  Among the science teams on board the Polar Star, a degree in Oceanography was earned either at a Master's degree level or Doctorate (PhD).  Once you earn a PhD, you can then plan the cruises; write proposals to (hopefully) get money so you can do a trip.  You also need to write scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals about the results of your data.


Meet the Science Crew

Team A

Team A - Midnight to Noon
Scott, John, Marlene, Kellie, Eugene, Kevin, Jim S.
Scientists:          Jim Swift
Technicians:      Eugene Gorman
                           John Calderwood
                           Scott Hiller

Students:            Kevin Vranes
                           Marlene Jeffries
                           Kellie Balster


Team B

Scientists:        Knut Aagaard
Technicians:   Guy Mathieu
                        Sarah Zimmermann
                        Jim Johnson
                        Ron Patrick
                        Dave Muus
                        Susan Becker

Student:          Wendy Ermold
Analyst:          Mary Johnson
Teacher:         Gail Grimes

      (Some of) Team B - Noon to Midnight
            Knut, Jim J., Gail, Ron, Sarah

(More of Team B)  Guy with creative instrumentation.

Dave and Mary (On both Team A and Team B)

(More of Team B)  Wendy preparing Niskin bottles

(More of Team B)  Susan in the cold.


What did these people do before becoming scientists?

These are just some of the jobs, the scientists, technicians, and students did along their career paths.

- Volunteer in National Park Services

- Preschool Teacher

- Waitress

- Deliver Newspapers

- Manager at Pizza Hut

- Pumped Gas

- Road Maintenance

- Cashier in a Pharmacy

- Sales at JC Penny's

- Bartender

- Handyman

- Computer Programmer

- Played in a Rock-N-Roll Band

- Worked on an assembly line

- Tour Guide in Norway

  This list is for mine and other students.  The point to this list is to let you know that almost everyone had to work their way from a job that had nothing to do with where they are today.  You must start somewhere in life. 

  Now the folks above work for the University of Washington, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and the University of Alaska.

  There are eighteen people on the science teams, all with varying backgrounds, each one loving the ocean in their own way.  Many different paths were taken to get here, each with its own unique style.  For my students and others, your challenge is to figure out your own unique style of doing things and the path in life on which you want to walk.  Don't worry if you can't figure that out now, you have plenty of time.


Some Personal Accounts

As for the scientists these are just a couple of their stories.

- One of the technicians earned an undergraduate degree in Geology.  This person worked as a handyman and a bartender at a yacht club.  Moved to the US and was hired at Columbia University where this person did chemical analysis on deep-sea cores.  Later, earned a Master's degree in Geochemistry.  This person spent their whole life working there, retired six years ago and is still working there.

- One of the scientists earned a degree in physics and a Master's and PhD in Oceanography.  This is their 47th trip out to sea.  I will not say when their first was.  One of his rewards in life is "the pleasure of understanding something about the natural world."  Also this person loves working with his former students.

- One of the students took all the science classes they could in High School (hint, hint to my students).  They were a waitress and cleaned office buildings.  They obtained an undergraduate degree in Chemistry and Molecular Biology.  Their first job, in college, was in the forestry department's lab.  After college, they started working at the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources doing data entry, and then became a field technician, examining sites with groundwater and soil contamination.  This person is now a Graduate Student at the University of Washington.  They want to use their chemistry background to work on environmental problems.



Report from Chief Scientist Rebecca Woodgate, September 10, 2002

Greetings from a foggy/sunny Northwind Ridge!  Tuesday and the 77th cast.   We have been making very good progress, and are bringing in water samples just as fast as we can analyze them.  The light ice has upped the work pace considerably, and the science team and the crew are answering the challenge marvelously.  We've completed our deepest cast, some 3800m down to the foot of the Northwind Ridge and the Canadian Basin, and are now CTDing our way south back to the mooring site, with a little time in hand for some extra casts if things continue well.

This early morning brought our first serious mechanical problem - a leak in part of a cooler for the port shaft, but a long night/morning from the engineers has us back in operation having lost only half a day. (We have 3 shafts, each of which turns one propeller, so don't worry, we'll get home ok.)

The data continue beautiful!  We have cut forward and back across the boundary current core in the coastal and ridge sections, over the Mendeleev and up and down the Chukchi Plateau. The variety of structure is unexpected and the nutrient and CFC data will prove an important part of solving the puzzle.  The Pacific waters are also showing intriguing variations, which in idle moments (had we any) one could link to the wildlife.  In the wee hours of the morning a polar bear with 2 cubs approached the ship - the first sighting in weeks.

With the Scripps team's onboard chemistry analysis and data quality control, it's like being a kid in a candy shop, as every new day brings newly processed and calibrated CTD and bottle data. The CFC team has two analysis instruments up and running, and is always hungry for water.  They also tested the Styrofoam head brought aboard by our teacher to illustrate the effects of deep-sea pressure.  Since it was given a clean bill of health, the head went down on the deepest station, along with Styrofoam cups colored by the school kids in Barrow and people aboard. I'll leave you to speculate on the results till the photos make the website!

Our "teach" is back on form after a couple of days of sickness, which gave others the chance to be "reporter".  It seems there is nothing to which our students won't turn their hand too.  They are proving an indispensable and enthusiastic part of the team.  Hump day has come and gone and with it, the Pine Wood Derby (a model car race, in which each competitor is given a block of wood and some wheels and has to build the fastest car they can).  The science party made a very respectable showing, with three entries.  Though we didn't win for speed, the CFC team won for style, with their model of the Polar Star, complete with helicopter.

So all well in the high Arctic.  I hope this finds you all as well as it leaves us, Best regards, Rebecca