Aleutians and Beyond
My experience on a research cruise with NOAA's Marine Mammal Laboratory
Bearing Gifts from the Bering Sea!
Starting my Field Research Season with a BANG!
Over the course of this summer, I had the AMAZING opportunity to work with the Marine Mammal Laboratory at NOAA. Immediately after finals season of Spring, I found myself on the Tiglax Research Vessel in Adak, tracking along the Aleutian Island chain for the next 3 weeks. This research opportunity was SUCH a dream, and I got so much more out of the experience than I could have ever anticipated. Being completely away from society, signal, or WiFi for this field season was a strange experience, but it allowed me to really focus on my own skills and passions directly associated with the project at hand. Getting to handle the Sea Lion pups on our assessment days was a real highlight. While hanging out with the pups is what I thought I'd be the best at, I discovered with the help of my mentors that I;m quite the powerful databook recorder and info relay point person! Apparently, I have the voice and tone for yelling confirmations of data points in high winds and rain, and we got through a record amount of pup processed on our processing days.
This experience gave me a unique opportunity to reflect on my journey up until this point. I grew up driving past the NOAA Magnuson campus as a child, one day dreaming of working there as a scientist myself. I did not expect to have the chance to fulfil this dream at 20 years old. Moreover, the most SHOCKING part of this research position was the fact that it let me explore my non-research interests in communication and outreach. Having gone to the Aleutians with my new camera, I captured some of the coolest shots of my wildlife photo career. Coming back to the office in Seattle with these videos and pictures from the field took some of my supervisors by surprise, and ended up landing me a temporary-yet-indefinite position with the NOAA Fisheries communications department!
I'm SO thankful for the supervisors and mentors at the office who listened in on my outside passions and introduced me to certain departments that would also be of interest to me. Through these introductions, I realized my potential could go beyond the research alone. I could be a two-for-one package if that was adept in research protocol as a field tech, AND be a documentarian for the science communication surrounding this type of work. Overall, it was an amazing journey to embark on as a student, and informed so much of my actions for the rest of the summer, especially moving into the excitement of the fall with Jackson Wild and Base Camp around the corner.