Undergrad Perspectives on a Research Cruise: Part 1

By Lauren Ball, a senior in the Dept. of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences at NC State University.

Lauren by deep sea vehicle Alvin's capsule
Lauren by deep sea vehicle Alvin’s capsule. Photo credit: Joe Zambon

As a graduating senior in Biological Oceanography, I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the PEACH Cruise on the R/V Neil Armstrong.  I ended up only having one class this semester, Observational Methods and Data Analysis in Marine Physics, and Professor Ruoying He announced the cruise opportunity during one of the first meetings.  Although my concentration is biological, I jumped at the chance to get my first research cruise under my belt, and, since I am in the middle of job searching, to be able to add this to my resume.  My primary assignments are assisting Dr. Joe Zambon on the marine physics aspects of the cruise, and helping Marco Valera collect planktonic specimens for later analysis in Dr. Astrid Schnetzer’s lab.

Joe Zambon, Lauren Ball, and Marco Valera at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MA.
Joe Zambon, Lauren Ball, and Marco Valera at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Photo credit: Lauren Ball

As cliché as it sounds, some of my favorite parts of the cruise have been seeing the instruments that were described in class actually used or deployed.  So far I have been participating in expendable bathythermograph (XBT) and conductivity, temperature, and depth recorder (CTD) deployments and preparing plankton samples at each site, and watching the Acoustic Doppler Current Profile (ADCP) and Pressure Inverted Echo Sounder (PIES) launches.  We will also be utilizing a glider, met moorings, and Argo floats later in the cruise.  No matter how much you study a subject, you can’t fully learn until you gain the experience.  This is why I chose my major:  to be by the sea, have adventures, and become a part of a research team on a subject I find very interesting.  I thought my education was coming to an end, but now I can see it’s just starting.

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