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Midshipman Interns at Stennis Space Center

Posted on: October 17, 2013 08:00 EDT by USNA Oceanography Department

The presence of midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy is becoming a regular summer occurrence at Naval Research Laboratory, Stennis Space Center, thanks to ongoing partnership through the USNA Summer Internship Program between Dr. Allen Reed of the Seafloor Sciences Branch, Marine Geosciences Division, and Dr. Joseph P. Smith of the USNA Oceanography Department.

During a four-week summer internship, Midshipman 2nd Class Michael Fuller conducted field and laboratory investigations of the flocculation of particulate riverine matter and coastal sediments as part of an NRL research project “Strength of Flocs”. 

Flocculation is a process whereby clay particles aggregate with organic matter within the water column in the presence of salt – a process that is common at the mouths of estuaries where clay and organic rich river waters empty into the coastal ocean and are subject to turbulent mixing that causes the clays and organic matter to come into contact and electrochemical forces that cause these particles to aggregate into larger particles called flocs. 

This process is extremely important in the littoral and nearshore battlespace environments because flocs can influence the acoustic and optical properties of the water column, dissipate wave energy, impact sedimentation, facilitate the transport of reactive dissolved constituents to the seafloor, and alter bathymetry.

By participating in this summer internship, Fuller was exposed to the wide range of Navy-relevant basic research being conducted at the space center.  He was immersed in a challenging research topic and exposed to a variety of field and laboratory research methods that will benefit his development as an oceanography major at the USNA.  

“This is a great place to visit for students in meteorology and oceanography as this could potentially be a station for them during their career,” said Fuller.

Given the real-world operational relevance of his research, his internship will directly enhance Fuller’s understanding of the littoral battlespace environment which will serve him well in his future career as an officer in the Navy or Marine Corps. 

 The work that was conducted this past summer is being compiled into a peer-reviewed paper and will likely serve as the basis for Fuller’s capstone independent research project, a requirement for his graduation from the Oceanography Department Honors Program in 2015.  

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