Around the Pier: Vessel of Knowledge


For two adventurous San Diego high school students, science class has been taken to the next level: sea level.

As part of their marine science class at Lincoln High School, seniors Julie Alvarez and Jonathan Franco are volunteering aboard the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego research vessel Melville. They are currently sailing off the coast of California, working with a team of Scripps scientists and students to study internal waves and ocean mixing.  The research expedition, “Mixing at the Margins,” runs Nov. 10-Dec. 3.

Julie and Jonathan received this unique opportunity to join a research cruise through Lincoln High School’s participation with Scripps in the National Science Foundation’s GK-12 program. GK-12 pairs Scripps graduate student fellows with San Diego-area middle and high school science classes to promote earth systems science curricula. Scripps student fellows provide hands-on science training in earth, ocean, and environmental sciences to help educate the next generation of environmental leaders.

“The Melville cruise is a first-hand learning opportunity for these students and follows the GK-12 program goals of encouraging young students to pursue careers in science and expose them to real research,” said Scripps graduate student fellow Geoff Cromwell.

Julie and Jonathan are sharing their ocean adventures with their land-bound classmates through regular blog posts from aboard Melville that describe what it’s like to live and work at sea. Each day they answer questions from their classmates such as “Is collecting data hard?,” What is your daily schedule like?,” and “Have you seen any wildlife?

“This is such an incredible way for students – onboard and back in the classroom – to learn science,” said Lincoln High School science teacher Danny Blas. “Jonathan and Julie’s classmates are in total awe of the two.”

“It’s been wonderful to have these two with us. They have been very responsible and really excited about the science happening out here,” said Mixing at the Margins Expedition chief scientist Amy Waterhouse, a Scripps postdoctoral researcher. “I love reading the questions from the San Diego students and Julie and Jonathan’s responses.”

Jule and Jonathan say the trip has been both educational and eye-opening for them.

“I never thought I would have a chance to sail at sea,” said Julie. “It is  a great opportunity to come out and see other jobs that are out there that I never knew people did.”

“My favorite part has been getting to know everyone, learning from them, and absorbing every ounce of information they had to offer,” said Jonathan, who now aspires to study physical oceanography.

Mixing at the Margins is a UC Ship Funds Program-funded research cruise led by Waterhouse and Scripps graduate student Ruth Musgrave. The innovative UC Ship Funds Program offers students valuable leadership opportunities at sea and supports the development of the next generation of scientists.

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