Tell us about your work / research. What kinds of things do you do?
I am completing my Bachelor of Science degree as well as being trained as an officer in the United States Coast Guard. During the school year, I study Marine and Environmental Sciences as well as Navigation. During the summers I receive more training in being a Coast Guard officer by sailing on board Coast Guard Cutters and training at the Academy. Next spring, I will graduate with a degree, as well as a commission as an Ensign in the Coast Guard.
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
Summer vacations as a kid with my family to Pawley's Island in South Carolina inspire my love of marine biology. I attended a STEM-based high school where I was able to take advanced classes in math and science which only increased my interest and curiosity in those fields. During summer vacation in high school, I participated in the Youth Conservation Corps which provides a workforce to various State Parks with the goal of promoting conservation of the natural environment as well as developing the teamwork and leadership skills of the participants. This program is how I learned that I enjoyed serving my community and sparked my interest in attending a service academy. The Coast Guard's commitment to environmental protection, its humanitarian mission, and the availability of a marine biology-based major drew me to apply and ultimately accept appointment as a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
My parents supported my every interest; they were always looking for ways to allow my to pursue opportunities and to expose me to new experiences. While they were initially surprised at my interest in the Coast Guard Academy, they were fully supportive, and continue to be my greatest source of inspiration and support.
What element of your work / study do you think is the most fascinating?
This semester I have been working with members of NOAA, WHOI, and the Coast Guard on a joint project to change the Coast Guard's approach towards the detection and avoidance of Right Whales. This has been a highly multi-faceted project involving researching Right Whales' behavior using Geospatial Information System analysis techniques, research into the capabilities of a passive acoustic detection and identification system developed by WHOI, learning how to code apps and transmit data using the AIS band of marine communications, and meeting with government officials and representatives to convince my service of the need to protect one of the most endangered mammals in the world.
What other jobs led you to your current career?
The Coast Guard Academy is my first "real" job, but my experiences attending a STEM-based high school prepared me for the riggers of scientific study in college, and my work in the Virginia State Park system helped me learn how to work on a team in the service of my community.
What are your degrees and certifications?
Rules of the Road exam and Damage Control Personnel Qualification Standards for the military.
What are your hobbies?
I am on the crew team at the Academy, and I also love reading and hiking.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours?
Never be afraid to pursue something, even if you think it is too hard or will take too much work. If you are truly passionate about your dream, the work will be worthwhile. You are capable of a lot more than you might think you are.
How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?
The Coast Guard Academy offers several internships to students with facilities and programs across the world and country. I knew about the Nautilus Exploration Program from a visit to the Inner Space Exploration Center at the University of Rhode Island with one of my professors and thought it was amazing. When the Nautilus was listed as one of the internships on the application list I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Due to the navigation training I have received in my three years as a cadet I applied to be the navigation intern on board.
Zoë participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: