Crest Middle School Shout-Outs: Answers to Student Questions

  1. Are all the scientists on the ship marine biologists?

All of the scientists participating in this cruise are marine biologist, but each person has   different backgrounds and research interests.  The scientists have studied marine biology, oceanography, zoology, ecology, genetics, modeling ocean habitats, and taxonomy. All have extensive experience working in the marine environment.


     2.    How many years does it take to be a marine biologist?

It takes many years of schooling to become a “marine biologist,” especially one that conducts and maintains an active research program. At a minimum you would need a Master’s degree, but in most cases, a Ph.D. is required.  You can earn your undergraduate degree (bachelor of science) in four years; a Master’s degree in two or three more years; followed by three to five additional years to earn a Ph.D.  Many new Ph.D.s gain additional training through post-doctoral fellowships before entering the job market.


3. How many scientists are on the ship?

There are 11 members of the “Science Crew.”

–          Dr. Martha Nizinski, Chief Scientist from NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service

–          Dr. Elizabeth Shea, Delaware Museum of Natural History

–          Dr. Brian Kinlan, NOAA Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment

–          Dr. Tim Shank, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

–          David Packer, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service

–          Taylor Heyl, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

–          Taylor Sehein, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

–          Erich Horgan, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

–          Ben Pietro, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

–          Erick Estela-Gomez, NOAA Corps officer

–          Beverly Owens, Teacher at Sea


Under Pressure

Did you know?

One feature of the deep ocean is that this region of ocean is subject to very high pressure due to the tremendous weight of the water above. So, how about a demonstration?

Take one Styrofoam cup, decorate it, and send it over a mile deep in the ocean. What happens to the Styrofoam cup?

It shrinks! Why? Pressure in the ocean increases about 1 atmosphere for every 10 m increase in depth. The increased pressure compresses the air inside the Styrofoam, and the cup condenses. It’s the same reason why your ears start “popping” when you drive to an area of higher elevation, like the mountains, or fly in an airplane. In that case, increase in altitude means a decrease in pressure

A decrease in altitude means an increase in pressure.

A decrease in altitude means an increase in pressure. And that causes a crushed cup!

What Skills Are Necessary in Becoming a Scientist or Engineer?

I have been amazed in watching the Science Crew (scientists and TowCam engineers) operate this week.  With any challenge that is presented, they work as a team to make minor adjustments, troubleshoot, and correct any issues that may arise. That got me thinking…what skills or characteristics are important in becoming an engineer or a scientist?

I surveyed the Science Crew, and based on their responses, have developed a list of skills important for scientists and engineers:

  1. Have a positive attitude.
  2. Be an excellent student. Learn to think independently.
  3. Be a good writer.
  4. Communicate well with others.
  5. Develop analytical thinking skills.
  6. Volunteer or become familiar with resources, like labs, museums, or other scientific institutions.
  7. Develop strong math skills.
  8. Develop computer skills or computer programming skills.
  9. Perseverance: If you make a mistake you can’t get down about it. You have to pick yourself up and try again.
  10. Curiosity: If you are curious, you’ll be passionate about what you’re studying, and will be able to communicate that to others. If you’re passionate, you will persevere and work through the challenges.


During my Teacher at Sea experience, I have had the opportunity to observe the Science Crew during many different activities. Below are some skills or characteristics that I have seen exhibited by the scientists and engineers involved in this research expedition.

  1. Work as a team.
  2. Cooperate: Get along with others.
  3. Be tenacious and persevere; be steadfast, never give up.
  4. Look at things from different perspectives; think “outside of the box.”
  5. Listen to and respect other people’s ideas.
  6. Focus on the task at hand.
  7. Think things through before jumping in.
  8. Come up with hypotheses or solutions and test them. If the solution doesn’t work, try another one.

As science teachers, we try to instill these traits in our students in the classroom. Whether it is completing a group project, conducting a lab, or taking notes, there is always opportunity to improve our science and engineering skills.

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to those fathers and male role models on board the FSV Henry Bigelow! And to my own Father, for teaching me, “The sky is the limit.” Or in this case, the ocean. I’ll be smashing a cup for you at the bottom of the ocean!

Engineering Spotlight: Ben Pietro

Ben Pietro grew up in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and has spent a great deal of time around the water. After obtaining a degree in

Ben Pietro, Engineering Assistant III and TowCam Pilot with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Ben Pietro, Engineering Assistant III and TowCam Pilot with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Education from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, Mr. Pietro acquired a job with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).  No doubt his experience in working with boats in Cape Cod gave him practical skills necessary for his position at WHOI today.

Currently, Mr. Pietro is an Engineering Assistant III. He designs, fabricates, and deploys surface moorings, and spends four to five months out on the water each year.

When asked what he enjoyed most about his job, Mr. Pietro responded, “There is always something new going on…Things are always changing.” He is always creating new things to help meet the needs of scientists involved in ocean exploration.

During the Canyons CSI Research Expedition, Mr. Pietro has been playing a major role in working with TowCam.  He is involved with the deployment and recovery of TowCam, and is one of three engineers on the cruise that is qualified to pilot TowCam. From an observer’s standpoint, this seems to be no easy task, since there are multiple variables that must be taken into account, and pictures are taken every ten seconds instead of having a live video feed. The pilot must rely on data feeds, such as altimetry and depth, and their knowledge of bathymetry and the ocean, in order to safely steer TowCam throughout the water column.

In the future, Mr. Pietro would like to become a better and more efficient engineer. He wants to learn more, continue to improve his drawing skills using CAD, and design new programs.