Two Portland Community College faculty are going to get, as they put it, "their geek on."
Instructors Linda Fergusson-Kolmes (biology) of Lake Oswego and Jenny Woodman (composition) of Southeast Portland will sail aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus this August as 2017 Science Communication Fellows with the Ocean Exploration Trust. Fergusson-Kolmes will join the Corps of Exploration when they visit the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and Heceta Bank, which are off the coasts of Washington and Oregon. Woodman will board the ship for mapping and exploration of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary near California.
As members of the Corps of Exploration, educators and students will stand watch alongside scientists and engineers. They will participate in live interactions with shore-based audiences via Nautilus Live, a 24-hour web portal bringing expeditions from the field to students and young future explorers through telepresence technology at www.nautiluslive.org and social media.
"We'll all be geeking out," Fergusson-Kolmes beamed. "We want to bring the excitement of science into the classroom. I'm hoping to get a look at a real undersea, remotely operated vehicle and talk to people while it explores. And, I can bring back what I learn to PCC and translate it for my students."
For Woodman, joining the Corps of Exploration was, "like being selected to be an astronaut." She has been writing about ocean health and technologies since 2014 for IEEE Earthzine, an online publication sponsored by NASA and the Oceanic Engineering Society.
"There was singing, dancing and silliness," said Woodman when learning she had earned the Fellowship. "It was a joyful moment."
The Ocean Exploration Trust is a nonprofit founded by Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic wreck in 2008. The mission is centered around exploration of the ocean, while seeking new discoveries in the fields of geology, biology, maritime history, archaeology, physics and chemistry. It also strives to expand the boundaries of STEAM education — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — and technological innovation. Selected educators and students hail from schools, universities, science centers, aquaria and non-profit organizations from 17 states in the United States and two Canadian provinces.
Fergusson-Kolmes, a native of British Columbia, has worked more than 10 years in the Sylvania Campus Biology Department teaching marine biology, majors biology and cell biology for health occupations. The campus is just east of Beaverton.
"When I heard I was selected it felt like I was 6 years old again," said Fergusson-Kolmes. "This is a chance to do something that I've always dreamed of."
Fellows are charged with the responsibility of engaging students and the public in the wonders of ocean exploration, sharing discoveries from the 2017 mission, as well as aspects of daily life aboard a working exploration vessel. In the spring, Fellows received four days of intensive training at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography to prepare for the two to three weeks aboard the Nautilus. Faculty will work four shifts of four hours on, eight hours off, and four hours on between the months of May and November.