Neah Baechler headshot photo

Neah Baechler

Seafloor Mapper / Navigator
Hydrographer and Marine Geologist
Abyss Hydrographic Mapping

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

I'm a contract hydrographer specializing in ocean exploration mapping, so I predominantly work for programs like OET who are out looking to make discoveries and shed light on our largely unknown ocean biosphere. As hydrographer I use acoustic sonar to create a 3D model of the seafloor, what we call a bathymetric map. These maps are used to paint a more informed picture of oceanic processes, whether they be geological, biological or some dynamic combination. In exploration hydrography, places we map have often never been conceptualized visually or otherwise, it's really inspirational. Everything is so new.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

In College I had a professor who went by Doc, she recognized my interest after a marine biology teacher sent me to her office and had me sign up for her marine geology course. Doc encouraged me and helped me and my peers find real work opportunities while we were students so we would have experience when it was time to go get a job. Without her I would probably be dreaming of the adventures I could be having instead of out on the ocean having them.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

Growing up I'd head out into the wilderness with my family, and my sense of adventure was fostered out there amongst the Oregon Doug Firs. My Dad especially encouraged me to keep an open mind, be curious about my surroundings, and follow my feet where they may lead me. Without that support and encouragement, I don't think I would've held onto my passion for discovery, or believed that you could grow up to become a literal explorer!

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

The most fascinating thing about my work is creating a 3D image of a space no human has ever seen or occupied. Deep ocean mapping brings to life an area of our earth that has no sunlight and exists under a pressure that would crush a human. We get to bring this world to the surface using sound, that technology is fascinating and the places we get to explore are incredibly dramatic. There are ocean trenches that would swallow Mt. Everest whole, it's truly other-worldly below the surface.  

What other jobs led you to your current career?

While studying at the College of Charleston I was a member of the BEnthic Acoustic Mapping and Sonar (BEAMS) program and I immediately began contracting as a hydrographer after graduating. I founded Abyss Hydrographic Mapping in 2018.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Geology -- College of Charleston 2015; Geologist in Training -- Oregon State Board of Geologic Examiners

What are your hobbies?

I love running in the rain, Origami, art in all forms, reading, cooking and exploring my beautiful home state of Oregon on foot!

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

The skills I use most often as an ocean-going marine geologist are troubleshooting, working under pressure, collaboration, and general problem-solving. Living and working on a research vessel poses really unique challenges without a lot of options for outside assistance. When something breaks at home, we try a few things to fix it and then have a specialist look at it. At sea the scientists and crew have to be the specialists in addition to our other roles, so we work together to solve problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. I recommend developing a proficiency and sense of confidence around problem solving and self-starting, these skills can make or break the success of a mission.

How did you get involved in the Nautilus Exploration Program?

I was introduced to the OET team through my work with the Okeanos Explorer, a NOAA Ocean Exploration and Research vessel, that shares the mission of exploration OET embodies.


Neah participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: