Linking Researchers with Community College Students


Researchers from this expedition will participate in a unique education and outreach effort that links cutting edge science with community college students, a group traditionally far removed from research science.

Dr. Julie Huber, a member of the cruise's scientific team, will "visit" students in Dr. Allison Beauregard's Introduction to Oceanography course at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, FL via a live Skype chat session from the R/V Cape Hatteras. Throughout the research cruise, students will also be kept up-to-date on cruise activities via the cruise internet blog. As part of the project, NWFSC students will be able to post questions directly to Dr. Huber and other members of the research team and discuss their interactions with the researchers in class.

To illustrate the immense pressure that the robotic research vessel Nereus will encounter during such deep-sea research, students will decorate Styrofoam cups and send them to the R/V Cape Hatteras to meet Dr. Huber before she embarks. The scientific team will attach the cups to the Nereus during one of its deployments. Because of the extremely high pressure experienced deep in the ocean, the cups will shrink down to about a third of their original size and the team will send the research souvenirs back to the NWFSC students.

Following the research cruise, Dr. Huber will visit NWFSC students in person. This connection of community college students with world-class scientists in the field promotes better understanding of research and potentially may encourage more students to major in the sciences.

This outreach project is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded to Dr. Julie Huber of MBL and Dr. Allison Beauregard of NWFSC.


Q1: How important is it for the team of Nereus engineers to have good communication? (Morgan Smith)
A1: Very! Communication is especially critical during launch and recovery of the vehicle. The whole team needs to be coordinated in who is handling what lines, who is operating the crane, etc. It is amazing to watch this careful coordination. In addition, communication is very important during a dive. When the vehicle is in ROV mode, there are 3 Nereus watch persons. The first person is the pilot, who is in charge of driving the vehicle. The second person is the navigator, who is in charge of telling the ship where to go and the pilot where to go, based on where the scientists want to go. The third person is the engineer, who is in charge of keeping an eye on all systems on the vehicle, monitoring the cameras and sonar, and helping the pilot navigate the seafloor. We have a great team out here.

Q2: It was mentioned several times in the blogs that Nereus is able to receive new programs that can extend a mission. Has Louis found out how to over-write the "home time" program that ensures Nereus returns to shore? (Courtney Ruiz)
A2: Yes. Louis has determined how to modify the home time program to modify when Nereus returns to the surface as well as how Nereus returns to the surface. They can tell it to stay on the seafloor longer or to return to the surface sooner.

Q3: What do you think the average weight is of all the equipment loaded on the ship? (Hannah Finley)
A3: The entire Nereus system weighs almost 34,000 lbs, including the vehicle, depressor, cable, and all the equipment and tools necessary to keep it running. And that doesn't include any other science gear, like the CTD and all of the scientists individual pieces. My guess is we are approaching 40,000 lbs of equipment. Good thing we have a big crane on board!

Q4: With weather not always holding up or instruments going awry, what kind of traditions have the crewmembers come up with and are there any fun pastimes that have been inducted? (Teresa Meza)
A4: Folks play cards, decorate cups (the classes all went down and returned on Nereus, by the way), watch movies, read books, etc. This is a relatively small ship so there is no workout room, library, or movie lounge, but we make do. Food, of course, is vitally important when things aren't going well. The cook is the most important person on board!

Q5: I am sure you will have lots of data to analyze whenever you return from this voyage, but will you still have samples that need to be analyzed? If so, how much and how long will this take? I noticed that there is data being sent back to at least one other lab while you are on the ship. Can you tell me more about what scientist are doing to help you analyze the data from shore? (Leigh Glenn)

A5: We have been communicating with our Leg 1 scientists to help us interpret some of the CTD (Eh, methane) data we are getting back. However, all of the microbiology will be done now that we are back on land. Right now, the ship is transiting back to North Carolina, where my postdoc Julie Smith will meet it to gather our plume samples. Once back home, we will do cell counts, look at microbial community diversity, and work with our colleagues to merge the chemical and microbiological data.

Q6: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job and is this what you wanted to do ever since you were growing up? (Toni Watters)
The deep sea is relatively unexplored and there is just a "wow that is SO cool" aspect to it that I find most rewarding. Seeing things on the seafloor that you never really imagined really makes me appreciate my world. Of course I also enjoy discovering new things and sharing them with other. I have always wanted to study the ocean, since I was very young. I didn't know I would end up working in an extreme environment like hydrothermal vents, but it is a natural fit for my interests.