It's getting late in the season. The sea ice is filling and and we're
finding it's almost solid in areas we were able to easily get to just a
few weeks ago.
Pancake ice rolling on the swell all the way to the horizon.
Meet the Science Support Team
Let's meet the rest of the amazing support staff that makes the science
possible on the R/V NBP!
Meet the Electronic Technicians
The Electronic Technicians (or ETs) are responsible for the maintenance
and repair of all the electronics on board the ship. They ensure all of
the scientific instrumentation works and collects the best data possible
and ensure all the communication and ship equipment functions properly.
George Aukon – Electronics Technician, Senior
Electronics Technician George Aukon in the Dry Lab of the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer.
George graduated from Nautical School with a degree in Electrical
Engineering in Latvia in 1987. Although an avid adventurer, to him
Antarctica seemed unreachable. However, he had a friend who worked on
the 1969 Lawrence Gould expeditions who inspired him to make it to the
Southern-most continent. As soon as he became a US citizen in 2005 he
got a job working at McMurdo Station. A few years later we was invited
to work on the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer and, enjoying the job, has been
The awesome people George gets to work with are the biggest draw of the
job to him. However the uniqueness and beauty of Antarctica don’t hurt
Advice from George: Get the chance to create and build something.
Electrical circuitry will help you in any field. Explore nature in
every activity and preserve it. Don’t degrade any form of life just
because you don’t understand it. We don’t know how long we’ll have all
Gabby Inglis – Electronics Technician
Electronics Technician Gabby Inglis, photo courtesy of Gabby Inglis.
Gabby first got experience working on research vessels in grad school
while working on higher degree in Ocean Engineering. After finishing her
PhD, she just wanted to get back out to sea and got a position working
on the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer.
Gabby loves using her ingenuity to fix things. When you’re on a ship in
the middle of nowhere, with limited resources and no internet access,
you learn to improvise and innovate to just make things work.
Advice from Gabby: Be Bold! If you see an opportunity, ask about it, go
Meet the IT staff
The Information Technology (IT) staff maintain all of the
infrastructure on the ship. This includes the servers (40+!) and
computer systems that are used to operate the ship and support data
collection. They’re also responsible for all of the communications
equipment that is used on ship and between the ship and outside world.
And on top of all that, they’re also general IT and computer support to
all of the crew, staff and scientists aboard!
Valerie Warner – System Administrator
System Administrator Valerie Warner, photo courtesy of Valerie Warner.
Valerie went to school for IT and had a friend who had worked on the
R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer previously. When he left he told her about the
position and it fit in perfectly with her career path. While she was
intrigued by the idea Antarctica, she was excited by the opportunity to
support the amazing science done on these cruises.
Valerie loves the challenges of her job. Unlike other network or
systems administrators, she doesn’t have access to the internet to look
up answers or see solutions other people have arrived at. She has to
solve all the technological problems that arise on the ship herself. Not
only is it a challenging job, it’s incredibly rewarding.
Valerie enjoys winter sports like snowboarding. Once, she chugged a
gallon of pink lemonade concentrate on a dare and can’t drink pink
Advice from Valerie: Enthusiasm and wanting something go a long way.
You can always learn skills, but being willing and eager is very
David Branson – Network Administrator, Marine
Network Administrator David Branson, photo courtesy of David Branson.
David had a background in IT, but wanted to get back to science. He
started his PhD in ecology which took him on research expeditions on the
R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer where he found his true passion—Antarctica. He
made close connections with the crew and staff of the ship and applied
for a position as soon as it opened. Here he’s able to apply his
combined skills in science and IT with his love for of Antarctica.
Science always offers new questions to ask and new mysteries to
explore—something he loves about the subject. His job is stimulating and
working in Antarctica is amazing—it contains so much life and diversity
against a seemingly frozen waste land.
Advice from David: Go to school, but get as much field experience as
you can. Volunteer. You’ll need to go above and beyond. Hunt down and
take advantage of all kinds of opportunities. Don’t get pigeon-holed.
Kathleen Gavahan – Systems Analyst, Senior
Systems Analyst Kathleen Gavahan, photo courtesy of Kathleen Gavahan.
In addition to being able to work as a Network Administrator, Kathleen
is working our cruise as the Multi-beam Bathymetry Technician. She
operates the multi-beam equipment and cares for the real time data
acquisition, systems operations, code, and instrument changes, and
general functioning of the equipment we’re using to map the ocean floor
(she trained me in everything multi-beam related I learned this cruise!
She’s also a very good teacher).
Kathleen started her career as a Geophysicist—combining her love of
math and sciences—working for the oil industry. However, she wanted to
get out of oil and into another filed. She happened to take a tourist
cruise to Antarctica and fell in love—shortly after she started working
as an Antarctic Support Contractor, aiding Antarctic science. Since then
she has mapped 80% of the way around Antarctica!
Mapping unknown territory, places people have never been before, is
something Kathleen really enjoys about her job. It also helps that the
scenery can be glorious on beautiful days and she works with intelligent
people. She enjoys the opportunities she has to learn from top notch
scientists on a regular basis. The scientists are always enthusiastic,
excited, interested, and never too busy to discuss their field.
When not on the ship, Kathleen makes fused glass plates and beads using
her creativity in a way that doesn’t involve computers.
Advice from Kathleen: Persevere and study. Find something you’re
passionate about—whether it’s quad-copters or microscopic little
critters in the ocean—find your passion and pursue it.