January 19, 2016

Two of our grant recipients, Dr. Rachel Orbin and Dr. Andrew Thaler, have been busy with their research preparations and even getting the first phases of their work completed.

Rachel Orbin, with her ambitious and adventurous research project that will take her to the wild reaches of the Bering sea on St. George Island, will be scouting the cliffs to search for Red-Legged Kittiwakes.

Updates from the field – ROVs and Red-Legged KittiwakesA recent dispatch from Rachel – "The red-legged kittiwake field season is starting! With luck Abram and I will land on St George Island in the southeastern Bering Sea, Wednesday May 20th. The fog and wind often deter flights from landing so fingers crossed we don’t end up on a return trip to Anchorage, Alaska. Once we get to the island we will meet our housemates and fellow seabird biologists who will be continuing the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge’s long-term seabird monitoring program. First we will scout the cliffs to find nests that we can access. We are planning to deploy GPS tags to find out where red-legged kittiwakes forage prior to egg laying. Egg will be laid in early June so the clock is ticking for this part of the project! Our access to internet is likely to be intermittent, but stay tuned for periodic updates."

Andrew Thaler is a little closer to home. However, his work is pushing the boundaries of open source underwater technology and bringing it into the hands of high school students. Open ROV is a community of engineers and programmers who have developed an open source ROV project that brings the often uber-expensive world of underwater exploration via robots into the hands of everyday explorers!

Updates from the field – ROVs and Red-Legged KittiwakesHere is a recent update from Andrew –"Andrew spent the month of May in San Francisco meeting with the team from OpenROV and Aerotestra, the company that will be building the Eco-Drone. The custom-built Eco-Drone is being developed with significant input from the local research community and will be a serious workhorse for the Chesapeake Bay. During this trip, he also joined in the OpenROV Tahoe Haxpedition to test out the latest developments in the research platform and beginning planning the Girls and Grads Underwater Robot Camp with robot technician and submarine pilot Erika Bergman. He's gearing up for a robot camp later this summer, where local students will partner with VIMS graduate students to build a fleet of underwater robots for Chesapeake Bay Research. He then joined the OpenROV team at the 10th annual Bay Area Maker Faire, where he had a chance to explore the latest in open-source technology for science and education."

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No One Said, “No.”

Joe La Magna

Starting a marine science program at New Covenant High School in landlocked Lynchburg, VA was not on my “to do” list as I read the Spring 2013 issue of Alert Diver. Yet that is exactly what happened, and two years later I am happy to report eleven students have completed the course and earned their PADI open water certification.