Careers at Sea
June 9, 2007
We sat down with two of the ship’s technicians to learn more about their different backgrounds and experiences that paved the way towards employment on the R/V Nancy Foster. Note that we were not able to interview the entire Nancy Foster crew and there are many other important positions on this ship including able-bodied seamen, engineers, cooks, etc., that help make offshore research possible.
1. Please describe your job/responsibilities on this cruise
Survey Technician Missy Partyka: I am responsible for the acquisition of all scientific data on board, including collection of bathymetric data through the multi-beam, water quality data through the CTD, real time surface water data through the wet lab, and ADCP current data. I also provide support for the acquisition of any other science related ship board operations and to all the scientists that come aboard.
Chief Electronics Technician Keith Martin: I have been working as the Chief Electronics Technician on the Nancy Foster since November. I am responsible for maintaining and updating computer systems, scientific sensors, electronics, TVs, radars, GPSs, sat communication (e.g., phones and internet). Computers break regularly, there is always something electronic to fix. I am currently working on the hypack navigation system, which has been down since this morning.
2. What training did you have that prepared you for your job?
Missy: I completed a month long NOAA hydro training course in Norfolk, VA. Through this course, I learned about hydrography theory, in addition to how to operate the software that runs our survey systems, how to install the hardware, and how to process the data.
E.T. Keith: For the last 10 years, I have also been with the U.S. Coast Guard auxiliary program, which is a volunteer program that targets the public and trains individuals to assist in USCG related operations. I gained experience with patrols in the water and search and rescue, including Helio-ops, or helicopter rescue operations. Through this experience I gained a lot of sea time experience on smaller vessels. I also leaned about communications on VHF radios, how to tie knots, how to function safety equipment and handle an emergency, such as a medical emergency or fire.
3. What other experience did you have that prepared you for this job?
Missy: I also worked at the University of North Carolina Wilmington as a database developer and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist with an emphasis on habitat mapping. I also volunteered at the Bimini Biological Field Station, and was later hired as a lab manager. Through this I gained fieldwork experience and practical work experience of running a lab, handling animals, and managing people.
E.T. Keith: I worked as a Marine Technician for the University of Miami for 6 years on the R/V Walton Smith and on Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution’s Seward Johnson I and Seaward Johnson II. I learned all I know about chemistry and other science from the chief scientists. This proved to be a particularly valuable experience. I learned not only about data collection, but what good data looks like as well. I am also a recreational scuba diver, since the age of 12.
4. What did you study in school that helped in your job?
Missy: I have an undergraduate degree in marine biology from Eckert College (in St. Petersburg), and a master’s degree from University of Southern Mississippi in coastal fisheries ecology, which entailed GIS and remote sending work on habitat fragmentation and effects on fisheries communities.
E.T. Keith: I earned an associated degree from ITT Electronics. In addition, I completed computer networking classes at Miami-Dade. I have a MCSC (Microsoft) certification. In addition, I spent 4.5 years working for Envirotest, which is an emissions inspection company.
5. What advice would you give a student interested in similar work?
Missy: You can gain a lot of experience through working in a variety of science fields and through self-teaching. I recommend students gain a broad science foundation. Don’t just focus on one area, learn about chemistry, physics, oceanography, and marine science. This will greatly help gain an understanding of how all the data interrelate..
E.T. Keith: Learn the basics in electronic theory, computer systems, chemistry, and oceanography. Also, This isn’t an ideal workplace for those that get seasick – we are out to sea up to 180 days per year. Finally, pick a ship with a good cook!