Scientist at Sea

Pathways to the Geosciences

Visit the web page of the first cohort of students (2022) to see what they are doing At Sea aboard the R/V Weatherbird II in the Gulf of Mexico.

USGS Sound Waves Newsletter Article

WUSF web story on the 1st Scientist at Sea research cruise

Over the past few decades there have been an increasing number of issues related to the geosciences including but not limited to climate, natural hazards, energy resources, and contaminant input to marine systems. Simultaneously, there has been a significant decrease in geoscience training at the undergraduate level, and very little diversity. Consequently, there are few well-defined pathways for students to enter the geosciences at critical junctures.

The intellectual merits of this project are multifold. First, this project will provide opportunities and prepare a more diverse group of undergraduate students, most of whom already possess a strong interest in the marine sciences, to pursue careers in the geosciences. It is well documented that culturally-relevant, problem-based research experiences, such as the DwH oil spill, which serves as the foundation of this project, can be a very successful recruitment tool. This proposal provides early exposure for students to obtain research experiences at a critical juncture in their education for determining career paths. The project will also increase the skills and quality of graduating students, and quantity of students continuing into geoscience careers (higher-education/academia, industry, government).

The scientific project used for geoscience training of undergraduate students for this project is an on-going (>10 years) investigation of the evolution of the DwH oil spill recorded in seafloor sediments. Specifically, we will be continuing an annual time series of sediment cores, which is virtually unheard of in the geosciences as geologic process of natural systems generally work so slow that annual time series of sediment sampling will not reveal environmental changes on this time scale. Perturbations of the sedimentary system caused by the oil spill, however, created rapid changes recorded in the sediments that can be resolved on an annual basis, and these changes (e.g., sedimentation/bioturbation rates, redox geochemistry, foraminifera assemblages/diversity/density) are still occurring. The >10-year investigation consisted of an international team of experts using cutting-edge techniques. The EC component resulted in 5 book chapters, 15 peer-reviewed journal articles and 87 conference presentations with 106 EC students as authors/coauthors.