MIDN Sheehy interns at the University of Washington and conducts vital research in the Arctic Ocean
POSTED ON: Friday, December 20, 2019 5:28 AM by MIDN 1/C T. R. SHEEHY, CDR KEITH THOMPSON, ALEXANDER R. DAVIES
During the 2018 U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) second summer block, Midshipman 1/C T.R. Sheehy, an oceanography major, interned at the University of Washington (UW) Polar Science Center in Seattle, WA. The Polar Science Center, part of UW’s esteemed Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), observes and models physical processes that determines the state and distribution of sea ice and polar ice sheets, the depth structure and movement of high-latitude oceans, and interactions between air, sea, ice, and biota.
Throughout the internship, MIDN Sheehy contributed to various polar science projects and gained an understanding of complex Arctic environment. “Polar oceanography has been my main focus within the major for the better part of the last two years. Having taken the Polar Oceanography course last semester, I felt ready to apply the theoretical concepts to real world problems. The Center provided me with several projects, allowing me to independently explore solutions.”
MIDN Sheehy’s internship culminated in a hands-on opportunity to fly a Seasonal Ice Zone Reconnaissance Survey (SIZRS) mission over the Beaufort Sea, an Arctic Ocean marginal sea north of Alaska. SIZRS is a coordinated program of repeated ocean, ice, and atmospheric measurements across the Beaufort-Chukchi Sea seasonal ice zone (SIZ) utilizing U.S. Coast Guard Arctic Domain Awareness (ADA) flights of opportunity. The SIZRS mission is imperative due to the rapid decline in summer ice extent over recent years. MIDN Sheehy flew aboard a Coast Guard C-130J (pictured above), launching Air eXpendable CTDs and Air eXpendable Current Profilers (AXCP), as well as deploying a long term buoy. Collected data was added to a larger database of critical observations from previous SIZ flights. “Dropping the CTDs out of a C-130 was such a phenomenal experience. From the beauty of the sea ice, to the excitement of drops out the back of the plane, to taking live observations in the world’s most inhospitable climate, it was an overall amazing opportunity,” MIDN Sheehy said.
MIDN Sheehy intends to use his collected flight data, in addition to previous years of SIZRS data, for his independent research project. “Collecting the data was a fun experience, but applying it to understand changes in the seasonal ice zone is the important task.”
MIDN Sheehy’s interest in polar oceanography was solidified during his participation in the National Science Foundation’s DEEP FREEZE program, based out of McMurdo Station, Antarctica. In 2018, Sheehy spent two weeks on the continent, observing scientific and military operations over winter break (the only opportunity to access the South Pole). “Being able to work within both the Arctic and Antarctic Circles is pretty special and something I could never have anticipated. The two internships complemented each other perfectly and have given me a holistic awareness of the Earth’s polar regions. These regions have never been more important and I am excited to play a small role in their understanding.”
MIDN Sheehy concluded his time in Seattle by noting, “I am incredibly grateful to the Polar Science Center and the Naval Academy Oceanography Department for their support. In particular, thank you to Jamie Morison, Roger Anderson, Axel Schweiger, Zheng Liu, and Sarah Dewey for allowing me to participate in the SIZRS mission.”