With the popular hastag #ILookLikeAnEngineer, it was a sweet surprise to see my sister Isabel's article (below). When I began in robotics, there were no girls involved at my school. Studies now show having role models in science and engineering that shatter stereotypes can be powerful for young girls who may be thinking about math, science, and engineering.
For three weeks over Christmas I'll help sail SailFuture's vessel Defy the Odds across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to the US Virgin Islands. See previous posts about SailFuture's #SailforJustice program (why the boat is currently in the Canary Islands) and about my time onboard last July.
After landing in the US Virgin Islands, Defy the Odds will take guests on week-long trips between January and April before the next iteration of its central mission -- providing high-risk juvenile offenders a transformative alternative to incarceration through training and teamwork at sea. Learn more about their "Vacations with a Purpose," and maybe you'll wind up on the boat as well!
I likely won't have Internet again until about January 6th. More updates to come after that! I'll be taking plenty of photos and keeping a journal, so until then, bon voyage!
I spent an incredible week on the #SAILFORJUSTICE boat in July (see post). The nonprofit SailFuture helps troubled teens break the cycle of behavior that keeps them in the criminal justice system by living, learning, and training together on a donated racing yacht and other sailing programs. You can read about their fantastic success and transformational program on their website.
Their crew of formerly incarcerated teens is now training for a 2,700-mile race across the Atlantic Ocean. Follow their story by signing up for updates. Here's the most recent status report from the program's founder and executive director, Michael Long:
Trying and learning is all part of success. See important update from the #SAILFORJUSTICE team.
I wrote an op-ed that TIME Magazine published about the need to create a multinational research effort (like CERN) for the oceans. It's a timely piece, with the UN General Assembly meetings starting in NYC this week and the UN's International Conference on Sustainable Development next week at Columbia University. Read more at TIME.com/4029379/cern-for-the-oceans/
Image and text via Pew Charitable Trusts.
This event is also advertised on the Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth website.
Thanks to all who joined! You can watch a recording of the talk here.
I'm one part shy of finishing Snyder and Murphy's The Wake, a graphic novel about ocean exploration gone awry. I recommend! And for other action-packed stories of ocean adventure, check out Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson (a true story!) and the Dirk Pitt Adventures by Clive Cussler (whose son Dirk visited us in Aquarius during Mission 31!).
Sneak peak of The Wake
I'm currently on Utila, an island off Honduras, collecting data. I'm working with Operation Wallacea and two other graduate students from Oxford. Regular updates are on my Instagram and our expedition Facebook page, "Thinking Deep."
Right to left that's Dom, Jack and me, the Oxford underwater research team.
A few weeks ago I was a guest on the Oceans Project Podcast hosted by Roger Overall and Sarah Weldon. Check it out! Episode 43: The Lady Who Lived Under the Sea
This week 15 volunteers sailed the Aegean with SailFuture Captain Mike Long on his journey from Turkey to Florida, bringing a donated vessel to the non-profit’s headquarters. Half of us knew each other previously; half of us didn’t. We were all somewhat acquainted with Mike.
Mike founded the non-profit, SailFuture, which teaches at-risk youth responsibility through sailing as an alternative to incarceration for teens with extensive criminal records. Their goal is to help troubled teens break the cycle of behavior that keeps them in the criminal justice system and prevents them from being responsible and happy members of their communities. You can read about their fantastic success and transformational program on their website. I also had them highlighted on the ACT NOW page a few weeks ago. I can’t speak highly enough of the program.
This year a generous donor gave SailFuture a 65' racing yacht (a MacGregor Pilot House for the boat nerds out there). Mike and his first mate Jeremy repaired the boat and are sailing it from its donation point on the Black Sea in Turkey to its destination point in Florida. Along the way they’re picking up a ragtag bunch of SailFuture friends and supporters to help sail each leg of the journey home. For the uber-curious, here’s my day-by-day account of the week.
In short, my leg of the trip was wonderful. Mike and his team’s passion and dedication not only impressed me, but invigorated my own endeavors. Not to get all soppy, but it was a seminal week that I’ll forever remember -- easily the most fabulous week of the year. I’m look forward to supporting SailFuture’s endeavors as best I can going forward. They’re currently fundraising to race a misfit group across the Atlantic. You can learn more at SailFuture, or reach out to me or Mike with questions.
Other crew posted about the trip as well:
Elizabeth Linzer: “The Best Way to Vacation: With Purpose”
Kristen Moran: “Greece 2015 with Sail Future”
Francisco Gonzalez: "Americans Stimulate Greece on Sail Future’s Week 4 Expedition"
And! From our onboard reporter: "James O'Keefe Goes Undercover in Greece During Financial Crisis"
After Greece I pit-stopped in Oxford to repack gear. I flew out early in the morning to begin the three day journey to meet up with the rest of the Oxford research team at our research site on the island of Utila, off Honduras. I’m looking forward to the adventure and to testing new technologies and gathering data for my PhD.
I'm currently with Professor Carlo Beltrame's team diving shipwrecks off the coast of Southern Sicily. More to come when I've better internet! Check out their recent papers here.
^Boat trip out to Roman shipwreck, passing stunning landscape of Taromina, Sicily
My room looked like a dive shed the last few weeks, gear strewn about as I packed for our 100m dive training in the Red Sea. I try to be a minimalist in general, but you need a sizable amount of gear to safely reach 100m and return all in one piece! People often asked me what gear I'm using, so here it goes, a "what's in my bag" post (not-quite a la Zoella style). I hope this helps others sorting out dive kit! Please add any questions below.
The last two months my research team at Oxford and I have been exploring mesophotic reefs using Hollis Prism 2 rebreathers. More information in this blog post -- "Diving Deeper and Longer to Study Never Before Seen Coral Reefs" and our Facebook page -- "Thinking Deep."
REBREATHER TRAINING: BEYOND TRADITIONAL SCUBA
The past weeks I've been learning to rebreather dive with two other Oxford PhD students. The rebreathers allow us to study reefs below traditional SCUBA depth limits (up to 120m/400ft). They also scare away fewer fish than traditional SCUBA because they don't produce bubbles. The concept is that on a rebreather you're essentially breathing the same breath over and over; when you exhale CO2 is removed and oxygen added. The only caveat is that the units are more mechanically complex than normal SCUBA rigs and therefore require more training and skill.
A LITTLE REBREATHER HISTORY
Rebreather technology has been around more than a decade, but they are only recently becoming more widely used and accepted in the scientific and recreational diving communities. Statistically, diving a rebreather is more dangerous than diving SCUBA. Accidents are all linked to user error, however, apart from a few truly freak accidents. If a diver is well trained, thoroughly inspects and maintains her unit, and follows a conservative dive plan, the rebreather diving is extremely safe and greatly benefits research. They allow us to dive to greater depths for longer periods of time and without bubbles that disturb marine life.
WHAT & WHERE
One of the research questions we are looking into is how deep reefs may (or may not be) sheltering some corals from the effects of climate change and fishing. More on that question in this PBS article.
We are training off the island of Utila, which is the site of my dive buddies' (Dom and Jack's) PhD experiments. They have a close relationship with the dive center here as they help run a program for marine biology students here on the summers. The reefs here are fairly healthy and can be reached without expensive boat trips, which is somewhat rare and helps keep research costs low. To top it off, Utila is a gorgeous Caribbean island!
The pictures with captions in the slide show below illustrate some of our adventures so far, including learning to use the Google Street "Ocean" View camera.
For those in the DC area... I'll be speaking at Walt Whitman High School next Tuesday and anyone is welcome to attend. Thank you MIT Club of Washington for organizing! Information below.
Next week I'll be temporarily leaving the comfort of Oxford for an exciting round of adventures. It starts in New Orleans, for the Underwater Interventions conference sponsored by the Marine Technology Society, where I'm giving talks on the ultra-slow motion underwater camera from Mission 31 and the stereo-camera system for monitoring fish from NOAA. From there, a friend and I will road trip through the alligator-infested swamps of Louisiana for a few days before flying to Washington DC to see family and move the exhibit of ultra-slow motion underwater photography from MIT to its next stop, The Potomac School in McLean, VA. I'll then rendezvous with our Oxford research team in Miami, where fellow aquanaut Adam Zenone has kindly been accepting our shipments of research equipment, before heading to Utila, Honduras, where we'll spend four weeks training on rebreathers and flying the openROV over mesophotic coral reefs. And finally, back to the comfort of Oxford!
"I DARE you, while there is still time, to have a MAGNIFICENT obsession." William Danforth
A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.
Many thanks to Stuart Young, founder of Illustration Station, for creating this illustration during my TEDx Talk last weekend! The video of the talk will be up on the TED website in a month or so.
Grace is an MIT ocean engineer, aquanaut, and scientist with Cousteau's Mission 31. She's currently a PhD student at University of Oxford, chief scientist for the Pisces VI deepsea submarine, and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.