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APL Polar Science Center Internship Recap 2017

  POSTED ON: Monday, July 24, 2017 8:31 AM by MIDN 1/C Emily Cecchini and MIDN 2/C Chandalar Pensley

On Monday, June 26, 2017, MIDN 1/C Emily Cecchini, an oceanography major, and MIDN 2/C Chandalar Pensley, an ocean engineering major, departed for Seattle, Washington to begin their internship at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). The midshipmen spent twenty-four days in Seattle, working at APL under the supervision and guidance of Dr. Jamie Morison, the Senior Principal Oceanographer, and Dr. Ignatius Rigor, the Senior Principal Research Scientist. The internship combined critical thinking tasks using Matlab programming to plot and analyze oceanographic datasets, and field-work experience dropping Airborne Expendable Conductivity Temperature Depth (AXCTD) probes in the Arctic Ocean as part of the Seasonal Ice Zone Reconnaissance Survey (SIZRS) Program.

As part of their research at APL, Midshipmen Cecchini and Pensley worked on 2015 Ice Mass Balance (IMB) buoy data, SIZRS AXCTD data from 2012-2015, and 2016 Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) data. 1/C Cecchini explained, “The heavy emphasis on Matlab was beneficial to practicing problem solving and critical thinking in an effort to accomplish various tasks.”  Visualization of oceanographic data helped the interns better understanding the relationship between temperature, salinity, and density in various regions of the Arctic Ocean.

While data analysis and visualization using Matlab were intellectually stimulating, both midshipmen agreed that the highlight of the internship was the opportunity to be a part of a SIZRS flight with scientists from APL. On 9 July 9, 2017, MIDN 1/C Cecchini and MIDN 2/C Pensley, and five members of the Polar Science Center at APL flow to Kodiak, AK where they prepared to fly to the Arctic. 

Mids at APL Polar Science Center Internship 2017

On July 11, 2017, the group took off from Kodiak for the Arctic on a Coast Guard C-130 (pictures of the plane above) to launch 21 air sondes, 5 aircraft expendable current profilers (AXCPs), 5AXCTDs, and 1 UpTempO buoy.  These sensors were deployed to collect upper ocean currents, temperature, conductivity, salinity, as well as atmospheric data in and above the Arctic Ocean. The trip lasted approximately 12 hours, during which the midshipmen had opportunities to launch some of the AXCTDs and air sondes off the side of the C-130, as well as spend time on the flight deck with the Coast Guard pilots and see extremely skilled oceanographers, meteorologists, and scientists at work. Midshipmen Pensley, reflecting on the experience, stated, “The SIZRS flight gave me a personal appreciation for the engineering and hands on work that needs to go into data collection.” The experience was definitely one that neither midshipman will forget. The pictures below are a quick sample of the once in a lifetime experience. 

Mids at APL Polar Science Center Internship 2017

After returning from Alaska and the Arctic, Midshipmen Cecchini and Pensley worked with Dr. Morison and Dr. Rigor at APL-Seattle on projects related to the International Arctic Buoy (IABP) and SIZRS programs. 1/C Cecchini hopes to continue to use the data provided by Dr. Morison to study upper ocean currents across the Greenland Shelf as part of her undergraduate research requirements.  2/C Pensley’s goals are to continue working with Dr. Rigor on a temperature and pressure sensor prototypes as part of her Engineering Design Capstone. Overall, the time at the Polar Science Center was educational, eye opening, and filled with remarkable people that expanded Midshipmen Cecchini and Pensley’s knowledge of the Arctic, ocean observing, and oceanography.

Instructor Alexander R. Davies and CDR Shawn Gallaher of the USNA Oceanography Department contributed to this article. 

Category: General Interest

Press Contact

Alexander R. Davies
Oceanography Department, USNA
Oceanography Website