SEA Currents: News
April 27, 2020
Partners in Research
In addition to coordinating SEA’s assistant scientist team, SEA’s Science Program Coordinator Kimberly Reed Nutt oversees SEA’s oceanographic database and processes requests for use of data collected during SEA programs from interested students and collaborating research scientists. Over the past 50 years, SEA has sailed extensively in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and collected data on annually recurring cruise tracks, allowing us to investigate ocean questions over time.
Working during this time of COVID-19 from her temporary home office in Maine, Kimberly has seen a significant increase in data requests. Last week, following the required review by SEA oceanographers and the Dean, Kimberly approved a request for data use from Amy Phung, a Junior studying Robotics Engineering at Olin College of Engineering. Amy recently completed S-290, Global Ocean New Zealand and is now expanding upon her shipboard oceanography project.
With support of SEA Professor of Oceanography Dr. Jan Witting, Amy is using this time away from her classroom to continue the research she began during her SEA Semester. She’s working on a poster for publication that will also be submitted to a prestigious competition for the best student-produced poster at the October MTS/IEEE Oceans.
Jan shared that many students’ SEA Semester research projects represent the most significant independent research opportunity of their college experience, and that the SEA faculty is committed to helping them expand these analyses into conference presentations or capstone papers at their home institutions, with access to SEA data sets. “Amy’s project is a really creative blend of science and engineering, tackling a fundamental calibration problem present in remote observation of ocean productivity. She’s comparing chlorophyll measurements made by our shipboard instruments to those gathered by satellites and robotic floats.”
Amy explained, “One day in class, we were posed with the question: If we had $5M to contribute to ocean-related research, what type would we invest in? To my surprise, 'engineering' bubbled up in our discussions. With Jan’s advice, we chose this project where I’d be able to leverage my engineering background to help make a difference where it counts—in the sensor data we use as the basis for much of our analysis."
“With support from SEA, access to the ship’s data has enabled me to continue this research at home. In some ways, it reminds me of working with my fellow shipmates at sea – even when we’re operating under different schedules, maintaining communication has facilitated the exchange of knowledge to make forward progress toward the bigger picture.”
Thanks to the partnership between staff members who currently are executing their important work remotely, and professors who are committed to serving the ongoing research needs of our alumni, researchers like Amy can utilize SEA’s data and use this time to advance the understanding of our oceans.