Cruising through the Gulf of Alaska

There are so many people involved in a research cruise like this. There is an entire ship crew (these guys are awesome, by the way), scientists, grad students, USGS employees, OBS technicians, and on this trip, there are even two high school science teachers.

I’m one of those high school teachers and I’m stoked to be on board.

So how did I end up here?

My colleague, Shannon Hendricks, and I were selected as part of the Educator Onboard K12 program. Through this program, educators are given the opportunity to participate in research to better understand current science practices. The goal is to use that knowledge to create engaging, authentic lesson plans to share with other educators.

What are we doing?

Helping out! If you’ve been following this blog (which I assume you have, since you’re reading this now), you know that this science team is part of a collaborative effort to learn more about the seismicity of Alaska, specifically along the Alaska subduction system. We have been deploying Ocean Bottom Seismographs (OBS) on either side of the Alaska-Aleutian trench. We each work a daily 8 hour watchstander shift, where we help monitor data collection and participate in the deployments of the OBSs. We also help out with the blog, help keep the research log updated, and any other tasks that may come up.

The rest of the time, I hang out and absorb information. Meeting all of these experts was a little intimidating. As science teachers, we know a little bit about a lot things, and have a solid enough science foundation to understand what they’re talking about (mmmm…. most of the time!). This also means we know enough to realize how much we don’t know! The team is phenomenal – they answer every question we have without judgement (or they only judge me in their heads, which is fine with me). It is amazing to get to learn from scientists that have made this their life work. Getting to peek in on their ongoing research makes us better science teachers. And it’s nice to know that, just like we tell our own students, there are no stupid questions.

Bethany Essary

West High School Science Teacher

PS I love that it’s called a “cruise.”


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