The R/V Thomas G. Thompson left Honolulu on November 5, 2011 heading toward the Western Pacific. This expedition journal written by cruise participants and uploaded about once per weekday, depending on internet availability.
November 21, 2011: Academics Aboard
The typical academic semester at Kutztown University runs for fifteen weeks with some breaks in between. This fall, we got through about nine weeks of the semester before we embarked on the R/V Thompson. However, once we got on the ship our schoolwork did not end, even though we aren't in class and are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Missing about five weeks’ worth of lectures and associated homework, tests, and finals would be a huge problem if our professors did not go out of their way to help us create a plan for our time at sea. All of the KU faculty accommodated our shortened semester into their course schedule by creating homework assignments, labs, and tests for us to complete, either prior to leaving or while on the ship. They made sure that we would be able to have this unique opportunity and not have any academic repercussions for missing class time.
The five of us from Kutztown are in different academic years taking different classes. For example, Tom and Jen are taking a botany class together, and they have labs to finish on board as well as two tests scheduled during the cruise, one of which was just completed last week. For other classes, such as the Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) course I'm taking, the completed assignments would be too large to send using our limited internet connection, so I'll have to turn them in once we get back to campus in the spring. This is also the case for some of our other classes in which labs, assignments, or exams use equipment not available on the ship. All of the work we cannot do on board will be finished either during winter break or at the beginning of the spring semester. When we are off from our watchstanding duties, which take eight hours per day, any one of us can be found in the office listening to music and working on a combination of different labs including: botany, physical geology, geophysics, and sedimentology/stratigraphy. We try to find time to catch up on homework in-between watches and sleep, usually after dinner or early in the morning.
By participating in the cruise, we each receive KU credits as an internship in marine science or guided research. These credits enabled a lighter class schedule during the semester, giving us this chance to participate in active scientific research. The cruise is also supplementing and expanding on classes that we either took or are currently taking and giving us hands-on experience with equipment that we would not have gotten to work with on campus. For example, this is a marine geophysical cruise focusing on magnetic and seismic surveys, which Tom, Jen, and Nick are learning about this semester in a geophysics course with Dr. Laura Sherrod.
Most importantly we are learning from and interacting with scientists and technical experts from across the country on a daily basis. Nick, for example, is interested in engineering and electronics, and he often hangs out with the AUV-Sentry team to learn how they designed and built Sentry. I am learning how to use different aspects of ArcGIS from Dr. Maurice Tivey in order to track and plot the movements of the ship to use in our daily geophysical reports. Although it is sometimes difficult to balance our shipboard and academic duties, this cruise provides a learning environment that we couldn't get on campus. ♦