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“Amazing Experience on Board the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster: Exploring the Eastern Basin of the Caribbean Islands”

This past June, a group of experts in Oceanographic Sciences, of which I am one, undertook an intensive research project in the eastern basin of the Caribbean islands on board the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster. The goal of these research campaigns was to better understand the oceanography of the Caribbean, especially the waters around the US Virgin Islands. I was on board the Nancy Foster as an intern, a position that combined the functions of a sailor and a student.

After spending 12 days aboard the ship, the crossing between the Virgin Islands was launched from Navy Crown Bay in St. Thomas Harbor. What we experienced and learned on board the ship was immeasurable.

The NOAA Nancy Foster is a federal oceanographic research vessel belonging to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which undertakes research projects in the Eastern Atlantic, with a stress on Marine Sciences.

During the first stage of our sampling task, we collected a great deal of physical and chemical data such as temperature and salinity profiles using CTD instruments and measured currents using a modeling shunt. In an effort to create regional connectivity patterns, we took numerous biological samples, including thousands of larvae of different fish, crustaceans and mollusks that form part of the plankton.

As biodiversity knows no political boarders, our travel companion LaTreese S. Denson (PhD candidate) referred to this diversity when discussing the origins of those on board, how the waters of the Caribbean unite us and how these waters are closely linked to everyone, without regard to color, language, ideology, etc.

The learning methods were not based just on theory but also on practice. For about 144 hours, covering 12-hour shifts from noon to midnight, I was able to actively participate in the research and all other aspects of life on board the ship.

During the night shift when the routine consisted of collecting samples, as colleagues we all shared high expectations of each other. We were very excited during the collection of samplings of S25, MOCC and the popular mini Bongo. We asked each other: “What will we collect on this try?” It became a routine to which we were passionately dedicated.

In our conversations around the table, proposals for research projects came up; we exchanged experiences and the ideas that came to us, all of which flowed easily. I also shared some of my own passion.

In this wonderful and passionate experience, I learned meteorological and oceanographic techniques and how to identify larvae, especially in that many of the little creatures that appeared in our samples are still strange and unknown at this stage.

This experience will be of great value and use to me on a professional as well as personal level. During my time on the Nancy Foster, I acquired and strengthened skills and knowledge and I formed friendships with wonderful colleagues with whom I am united in our shared interest in ocean conservation.

I do not wish to say goodbye without thanking the entire NOAA crew and personnel who participated in this research campaign.