Bonney headshot

Jake Bonney

Argus Pilot
Recent Graduate Student
University of Rhode Island

Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?

This past year I graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a BS in Ocean Engineering. I am now pursuing my Masters in the same program. The Ocean Engineering program at URI has given me the opportunity to work on a variety of projects. My undergraduate studies focused on a number of projects in passive acoustics and marine mammal monitoring in and around Narragansett Bay. My senior design group deployed two whale monitoring buoys with the help of the Mooring Operations and Engineering team at Woods Hole. As a graduate student I've been working on several research projects. For the last year I've been collaborating with the RI Department of Environmental Management to track tagged Atlantic Sturgeon in Rhode Island waters by building, deploying, and maintaining an array of fish tag recievers. I have also been working in the URI Undersea Robotics and Imaging Laboratory with Professor Brennan Phillips developing and testing novel deep sea camera systems.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

Growing up in Rhode Island I had the opportunity to spend almost my entire life right next to the Atlantic coastline. Some of my most vivid memories are fishing for blues or digging for quahogs and exploring the islands of Narragansett Bay. I feel as though every day around the ocean is a new and exciting day because there is so much to learn and discover. This attraction to the ocean is what led me to URI to study Ocean Engineering.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My dad, who works as a Naval Architect, brought me aboard the RV Hugh R. Sharp during its initial launch when I was 9 years old. I was fascinated with the ship and the research it was doing and had watched my dad work on designing the vessel from a very young age. He was also the first person to tell me about the Ocean Engineering program at URI which sparked my interest in the field.

What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?

I find myself intrigued with the technology that goes into deep-sea exploration. As an engineer, I enjoy the challenge of working on projects that go into such harsh environments and under extreme pressures. Recently I've been working on a project to design a 3-D printed housing for a cheap microcomputer, camera, and battery system that is depth rated to over 3000 meters. Making the deep ocean more accessible and cheap for scientists and explorers is a task I love working on.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I have been working in various jobs and internships since I was 14 years old. I spent my high school as a lifeguard, picked up construction work during time off in college, worked as a bouncer at a local college bar, and more recently held a number of different engineering internships. At the moment I hold a position as a graduate teaching/research assistant at URI. I've jumped at many opportunities over the years that may not have jived completely with my studies or my career goals, however, they have helped me develop invaluable skills which I am thankful for today.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Ocean Engineering - University of Rhode Island 2019

What are your hobbies?

I'm a big-time sports fan (Go Pats/Celtics/Red Sox!) and I enjoy playing pick-up basketball or other sports whenever I get the chance. When the weather is right I love to get out on the water and go fishing, clamming, and water skiing. I also recently got my scuba certification and I am trying to dive more often.

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program?

I applied for the SEIP ROV Engineering Intern position after hearing about the program at my college, URI, in the Inner Space Center. During the 2019 season I spent 3 weeks aboard the Nautilus as an ROV intern during the Kingman Reef, Jarvis Island, Palmyra Atoll expedition. After some persistence, I was invited back on board as an Argus Pilot for the 2020 season.

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?

Never shy away from trying something new or reaching out to people you don't know. You never know until you try and you should not be embarrassed to ask a question. Somebody once told me that the questions you think are dumb are more often than not the most important questions. Fields like engineering can be daunting and challenging at times, however, you learn the most when you challenge yourself to take on difficult tasks.