On March 15-19th I had the opportunity to attend “U.S. Hydro 2015”, a multi-disciplinary hydrographic conference. I was one of 24 fortunate students who were selected to take part in the conference as a part of the student outreach program. The students were from all over the country and their interests varied from archaeology to electrical engineering. The student’s experience with hydrographic surveying varied as well. The surveying and robotic experience I gained as an intern of the CSHEL lab really prepared me for many talks and workshops I was able to attend during the conference. However, for some students, this conference was their first experience with hydrographic surveying. Regardless of the student’s previous experiences in this field, the outreach program at the conference provided many opportunities that transformed the student group from generally inquisitive students, to students with a personal drive to pursue a career in the field of hydrographic mapping.
One of the first major turning points for the group was during our trip out on the NOAA survey vessel Bay Hydro II. While the introductory presentations that were presented by former Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping students on day one were informative, the information really clicked for the many students when they got to see a survey in action. For myself, it was a great opportunity to see how a full-time survey vessel is outfitted and to see the multi-beam and side-scan sonar images waterfall simultaneously across multiple computer screens. At the University of Delaware, we are fortunate to have a fleet of research vessels that are multi-platform and multidisciplinary such as the R/V Joanne Daiber, but because it is used for a wide variety of scientific endeavors, we do not have the luxury of a permanent surveying set-up, so it was interesting to see how the process could be streamlined. It was a unique opportunity that I believe inspired a lot of the students in the program.
The student outreach program was an amazing opportunity that put students in direct communication with members at the top of the field. From private industry such as Dave Millar from Fugro Pelagos, to government agencies such as Captain Brian Connon from the United States Navy, students were encouraged to ask candid questions in order to fully understand what it takes to succeed in the field of hydrographic mapping and they were very willing to offer up useful advice, as well as many unique sea stories.
Beyond meeting some of the top leaders in the industry we were also able to sit in on talks that are at the cutting edge of the field. Students were given the introductory lesson on hydrographic mapping, but it was also great to see what was currently being done and where the field was going in the future. There was even a talk by Karen Hart from Caris about increasing collaboration between the fields of oceanography and hydrographic mapping. This was particularly poignant to me because the Robotic Discoveries Lab utilizes the same data acquisition techniques, but instead of making nautical charts, the lab uses the data collected to investigate our oceans. So, it was great to see another researcher compare and contrast the two fields and hopefully it will increase the collaboration between oceanography and hydrographic mapping and thus, lead to better science and nautical charts.
In conclusion, the student outreach program was an amazing experience that every student remotely interested in the field should apply to because it is a great opportunity to see all the different facets of the industry. Personally, it strengthened my resolve to learn everything I can about the field and hopefully, pursue a long career in the field of hydrographic mapping." -Ken Haulsee