By Edwin Schiele
October 28, 1998. One more day of dredging and coring to go, and the negotiations about the final sites to hit have begun. As of Wednesday night, we have cored 46 sites and dredged 19. Friday we will motor back to Honolulu. Saturday morning we stagger onto shore. More frequently, the conversations turn to the beverages we are going to drink that first night back (skim milk and fresh prune juice, of course).
Most of us will return home to our jobs. For Jennifer Mercer, Tim Dulaney, Eric Bergmanis, and Mike Avgerinos, it will be back-to-school time. Contrary to popular legend, graduate school involves more than experimenting with a diet of Powerbars and coffee or scrounging together enough nickels to buy a burrito at Taco Bell. You can do what I did and count and measure tree seedlings in a cedar swamp accompanied by the lyric drone of millions of mosquitoes, or you can spend five weeks on a research ship.
I talked to Jennifer, Tim, and Eric about what brought them on board. There are common threads to all three stories. Each person was fascinated with science as a kid. Jennifer still carries around a postcard of Mt. St. Helens erupting that her aunt had sent to her. Each person also cites professors or other mentors who inspired them.
Still the routes they took were slightly different. Despite a brief flirt with journalism in college, Jennifer had always focused on a geology career. She took a summer internship at Woods Hole where she worked for Debbie Smith on the Puna Ridge Project. She then went straight from college to graduate school. Tim always liked science but didnt see an earth science career in his future until on a whim he sat in on a geology class at college. While in college, he participated on several cruises. He then landed a job as research specialist at the University of South Carolina where he participated on several more cruises. One of his responsibilities was deploying sediment traps. This fall, he started graduate school.
Eric, who grew up in Hawaii, took a more circuitous route. Academics were never his priority, either in high school or college. He dropped out of the University of Hawaii and took a series of jobs before completing his degree in geology at the University of Colorado several years later. He then worked as a geologist at an oil company for four years, returned to Hawaii, and started taking geology classes at the University of Hawaii until they relented and accepted him into the graduate school program. While in school, he has studied the volcanology of the Haleakala volcano on Maui.
None of the graduate students will be using any of the data collected on this cruise. For them, the cruise is on the job training. Eric will embark on another cruise to study the East Pacific Rise north of Easter Island. Tim will be interpreting data from a cruise studying faulting along the sea floor in the South Indian Ocean. Both will use techniques similar to those we used on this cruise. Jennifer has no immediate plans for another cruise, but hopes to go on many others in the future. She is treating this cruise as a floating classroom, applying the concepts she has learned in school, learning from the other scientists on board, and being amazed that it is possible to send a vehicle 5,000 meters underwater then watch images of the seafloor.
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