OIHS students speak with science teacher aboard Nautilus

Floating off the coast of Vancouver Island is the world famous Exploration Vessel Nautilus, and aboard that ship is Spring Street International School teacher Timothy Dwyer.

Orcas High School students got to take a peak into the life of a marine researcher when they spoke with Dwyer via the Nautilus’ web streaming service, Nautilus Live. Laura Tidwell’s Marine Science class were given 20 minutes to ask Dwyer and fellow educator aboard the vessel Elizabeth Fahy, a middle school teacher from Florida, about their exploration.

“It’s like watching mission control at NASA,” said Dwyer of the observations he has made while on board. Dwyer is aboard the Nautilus for three weeks as part of a 2016 Science Communication Fellowship with the Ocean Exploration Trust.

The fellowship unites 17 educators from around the world at various parts throughout the summer to work with student interns and speak with the public via Nautilus Live.

Education fellows receive a four-day training at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, and then spend a few weeks aboard E/V Nautilus.

OET, founded by Dr. Robert Ballard in 2008 with the mission to conduct an interdisciplinary study of the ocean, selected 17 educators and 22 students from all over the world to sail along with the 2016 Nautilus Exploration Program expedition.

“It was a tremendous honor to be selected for this opportunity. Dr. Ballard has been a hero of mine since I was a little kid and it was a real privilege to meet him during the training workshop in Rhode Island this April,” said Dwyer in a press release. “The group of educators brought together by this fellowship are similarly inspiring.”

The expedition is currently working with Ocean Networks Canada, using remotely operated vehicles to maintain and repair an underwater observatory along the Juan de Fuca plate. According OCN’s website, it operates two underwater observatories which combine to make the largest in the world, covering more than 850 km and containing over 9000 sensors.

OCN’s observatories, known as Neptune and Venus, collect physical, chemical, biological and geological data to help research earth processes. Scientists Nautilus are repairing damage to Neptune, the larger of the two observatories, which was caused by a fishing trawler.

Students in the marine science class asked Dwyer and Fehy asked a variety of questions. What comes next for the Nautilus? Dwyer said that once the vessel has completed work on the observatory, it will travel to southern California to explore the USS Independence, a World War II aircraft carrier which was scuttled off the coast.

The students were also curious about what jobs are available aboard the Nautilus. Jobs include internships for high school students; undergraduate internships; science fellows; and professional mariners. According to the website for Nautilus, employment on an exploration vessel includes navigator, ROV pilots, communications, video engineers and a plethora of scientists from many different fields of study.

“Takes a real team of people to make this happen,” said Dwyer, who noted there are 45 people on board.

Educators and students aboard the Nautilus will learn science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills while observing the scientists and engineers performing their daily work routines.

“I am beyond excited at the opportunity to visit the different deep sea habitats of the Juan de Fuca plate. The observatory monitors submarine canyons, abyssal plains, and hydrothermal vents with their associated tube worm communities and we’ll be visiting them all,” said Dwyer in the press release. “Until they were discovered in the late 1970s, science didn’t even know that large animals could feed from chemicals coming from the earth; the fact that I can now visit them robotically and share these remotely operated vehicle dives live with my students and my community is mind-blowingly cool.”