A Data Engineer is a Corps of Exploration member in charge of ensuring all data is recorded, archived, and documented to meet the highest scientific standards during exploration missions. Data is gathered through many pathways aboard the ship including - seafloor mapping soundings, weather information from the bridge, underwater still images, topside photography, high definition video feeds from the many camera on remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Hercules and Argus, oceanographic sensor read-outs like salinity, oxygen concentration, temperature, the tension of the winch cables from the deck, and spatial navigation locations of all vehicles. The Data Engineer also maintains all onboard computer network systems, the satellite system, and the printers.
Data engineers are responsible for the data acquisition computers and all the needed software for exploration. They use Linux, Windows and Mac computers to maintain the ship information network - including routers, firewalls, and physical cabling, along with the satellite dish systems that uplink data to shore. Part of that work involves assisting the ROV pilot team with wiring and connecting new scientific instruments brought onboard by scientists. To match the pace of exploration and to complement the development of new technologies, data engineers also propose and develop incremental improvements to software and ship computer configurations.
One data engineer sails on each expedition. Rather than standing a watch in the control van, they are on-call all hours to support the ship’s crew and expedition team. A data engineer's work ashore includes supporting the science team with getting information about expeditions into data repositories and into OET's internal archiving to ensure researchers around the world have access to data once an expedition is complete.
Within the Corps of Exploration, data engineers have training, degrees, and certifications in computer science, geographic information systems (GIS), programming, marine operations, communication technology, satellite engineering, and data science.
Data engineers have skills coding in scripting languages (e.g. Perl, Bash) and general-purpose languages (e.g. Python, C/C++, Java) and experience working with different systems like Windows, Mac, and Linux. They are also strong team players who enjoy the challenge of problem-solving with excellent multitasking skills. Handiness with basic hand tools, while perhaps unexpected as a data skill, are important to conduct maintenance on systems around the ship. Data engineers have the unique challenge to document their work in detail since other data engineers are not on the ship at the same time. All of the Corps of Exploration is always improving skills collaborating with an international, multidisciplinary, diverse team of engineers, scientists, educators, and students.
With a similar skillset, you could also explore other careers including: computer programmer, data scientist, systems engineer, computer engineer, IT manager, automation control engineer, software developer, information security analyst, marine technician, database engineer, web developer, and more.