Neah Baechler headshot photo

Neah Baechler

Abyss Hydrographic Mapping

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

I map the Ocean! As a part of various ocean exploration programs, I use acoustic sonar to collect data about the shape and depth of the seafloor. Sound travels from the sonar to the seafloor, and back- and we mappers can use the speed of sound through the water to calculate how deep the ocean is, its shape, even how hard or abortive the seafloor is in a particular spot. It's pretty fun stuff!

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

Initially, I wanted to be a marine biologist, but once in school for marine science, I was captivated by my geology courses. The story of the earth is recorded in geology and I love being a part of the community working to decode and interpret that story. My love for the ocean is as strong as ever, so here I am a Marine Geologist and Ocean Mapper.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

Over my life and career, I've had a lot of mentors, professors, and friends who've encouraged me and taught me a great deal. More than anyone though, I'd have to say, my Dad. He's a (now retired) building scientist who studied energy efficiency in building practices. When I was a kid I would ask him questions all the time- why is this that way? He would always answer with a level scientific explanation, or he would say " I don't know, Neah. That sounds like it would make a great research project". I guess I'm still asking questions and starting research projects.

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

Problem Solving. It's easy to love mapping and discovering all varieties of things, but I think my favorite days are the ones I apply myself to solve a problem onboard and keep us on track with exploration. Maybe the sonar system has a tech issue, maybe a piece of gear isn't communicating correctly with the ship... These are headaches for the team, but they also challenge us in new ways and I enjoy that.  

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I've been contracting as a Hydrographer since I graduated from college in 2015. I was incredibly lucky to be part of the College of Charleston BEAMS program, which specializes in seafloor mapping and marine geology. The program is very hands-on, and I was able to sail frequently while still in school to learn the job. After working a few student research mapping gigs, I was able to build my client base into industry mapping, surveying for shipping chart updates and offshore windfarm blocks etc. From there I transitioned into exploration work via the Okeanos Explorer Explorers-In-Training program.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Geology -- College of Charleston 2015; Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems -- Portland State University 2022 (in progress)

What are your hobbies?

Watercolors, misty walks in the moody forest, running, cooking, reading, writing haikus, brunch, and backpacking. This past winter I've also learned to code and learned how to oil paint.

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

A lot of folks will say STEM classes (and they're right) but I think knowing yourself, and learning to be open and work in a team are perhaps more important at sea. We are out here together for weeks to months and a lot is asked of us beyond a "normal" work environment. Good communication, knowing when to step forward/back, being open, respectful, and mission-oriented is extremely important. Just as valuable are humor, patience, kindness, and self-care. Learning your passion and the work environment that you best thrive in is crucial to your success. No one ends up in this line of work on accident, it takes dedication and focus, and the more you understand your needs, the more you'll be able to learn from those around you!

How did you get involved in the Nautilus Exploration Program?

I started contracting with OET after working with other sister exploration programs like NOAA's Ocean Exploration program aboard the Okeanos Explorer.