March 2016

Special Issue: Graduate Education in the Ocean Sciences



VOL.29, NO.1, MARCH 2016

Graduate Education

in the Ocean Sciences










FROM THE GUEST EDITORS. Introduction to the Special Issue on

Graduate Education in the Ocean Sciences

By S.B. Cook and N.H. Marcus


The Ocean Science Graduate Education Landscape: A 2015 Perspective

By S.B. Cook, A. Holloway, M. Lettrich, and K. Yarincik


A Moving Target: Matching Graduate Education with Available Careers

for Ocean Scientists

By M. Briscoe, D. Glickson, S. Roberts, R. Spinrad, and J. Yoder


SIDEBAR The Individual Development Plan: A Tool to Help Graduate

Students Assume Control of Their Futures

By N.H. Marcus


SIDEBAR The Optical Oceanography Class Turned 30 in Summer 2015

By M.J. Perry


SIDEBAR The Duke Professional Master of Environmental Management:

An Exemplary Program Responsive to Workforce Needs

By P. Halpin and A. Read


Moving Forward: 21st Century Pathways to Strengthen the Ocean Science

Workforce Through Graduate Education and Professional Development

By L.C. Schaffner, T.W. Hartley, and J.G. Sanders


SIDEBAR The Big Picture: National Initiatives in Graduate Education

By S.T. Ortega and M.T. McCarthy


Strategies for Increasing Diversity in the Ocean Science Workforce

Through Mentoring

By A. Johnson, M.J. Huggans, D. Siegfried, and L. Braxton


SIDEBAR The Ocean Science Social Diversity Challenge

By M. Gilligan and S. Ebanks


SIDEBAR MS PHD’S: By and for Minorities

By L. Ricciardi, V. Williamson Whitney, and A. Johnson


Broadening the Impact of Graduate Education in the Ocean Sciences

By C. Peach and G. Scowcroft


SIDEBAR STEM Graduate Students: Learning How to be Effective Storytellers

By N.H. Marcus


SIDEBAR Out of the Tower and into the Classroom OR How Classroom

Partnerships Give Marine Science Grad Students an Edge

By C. Hopper Brill


VO L . 2 9, N O.1 , M A R C H 2 0 1 6


Oceanography | March 2016






Oceanography | Vol.29, No.1


(1) Kara Vadman (USF) and Mikhaila Redovian (Colgate undergraduate) secure hydrophones before seismic work near Totten

Glacier, East Antarctica, on US Antarctic Program cruise NBP14-02. Photo credit: Steffen Saustraup (UTIG)

(2) Florida State University PhD student Samira Daneshgar Asl takes notes during a research cruise in the northeastern Gulf of

Mexico as part of a project to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Photo courtesy of Florida State University

(3) Samantha Bosman prepares to collect a plankton tow during a Deep-C Geochemistry cruise aboard R/V Weatherbird II in

May 2012. Photo courtesy of Florida State University

(4) For more than 10 years, courtesy of University of California ship funds, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography deep-sea biol-

ogy graduate class led by Lisa Levin has held field trips to the San Diego Trough to give students a hands-on, real-time look at

deep hydrographic features. Photo courtesy of Lisa Levin (SIO)

(5) University of Hawaii graduate student Yoshimi Rii running CTD operations. Photo Credit: Tara Clemente (C-MORE, UH Manoa)

(6) University of Delaware undergraduate Semester-in-Residence students collecting plankton samples from the Delaware Bay

aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp. Photo credit: School of Marine Science and Policy, University of Delaware

(7) MIT-WHOI graduate student collecting water samples for river chemistry studies. Photo courtesy of Woods Hole

Oceanographic Institution graphics


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Production of this issue of Oceanography

was supported by the National Aeronautics

and Space Administration and the National

Science Foundation.


• Susan B. Cook, Ocean Conservation and

Research Association

• Nancy H. Marcus, Florida State University


Beyond Academia: Professional Society Resources and Programs for

Ocean Sciences Graduate Students

By L.E. Duguay and S.B. Cook


SIDEBAR Student-Led Retreats for Graduate Student Cohesion

and Career Success

By K. Stamieszkin, M.A. May, and A. Chase


NASA Graduate Fellowship Opportunities

By E. Lindstrom, S. Hakkinen, and M.-Y. Wei


NSF’s Graduate Student Support Programs: An Overview and Reflections

from a Former Fellow

By S.B. Cook



An Experiment in Graduate Education: A Marine Science Adventure Across

the Indian Ocean

By V.B. Pearse, J.C. Ogden, and S.J. Proctor



QUARTERDECK. Working Toward a PhD in Ocean Sciences Hones a Variety of

Marketable Skills: Insights from Oceanography’s Career Profiles Column

By E.S. Kappel


FROM THE PRESIDENT. The Case for a “Sea Change” in Graduate Education

in the Ocean Sciences

By M.S. Lozier


RIPPLE MARKS. Life in Rough Seas: For Harlequin Ducks, Home is Churning

Rapids and Pounding Surf

By C.L. Dybas


HANDS-ON OCEANOGRAPHY. Building Intuition for In-Water Optics and

Ocean Color Remote Sensing: Spectrophotometer Activity with littleBits™

By S. Schollaert Uz

104 THE OCEANOGRAPHY CLASSROOM. Higher and Higher in Education

By S. Boxall

106 CAREER PROFILES. Denise M. Akob, Research Microbiologist, US Geological

Survey • Danielle Sumy, Project Associate, Incorporated Research Institutions

for Seismology • Juliet Hermes, Manager and Principal Oceanographer,

Egagasini Node for Marine Offshore Systems, South African Environmental

Observation Network • Fiona Horsfall, Chief, Climate Services Branch, National

Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service

Oceanography | Vol.29, No.1

Oceanography | March 2016


Ellen S. Kappel

Geosciences Professional Services Inc.

5610 Gloster Road

Bethesda, MD 20816 USA

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Contributing Writer

Cheryl Lyn Dybas


W W W.TO S .O R G /O C E A N O G R A P H Y

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The Oceanography Society was founded in 1988

to disseminate knowledge of oceanography and

its application through research and education, to

promote communication among oceanographers,

and to provide a constituency for consensus-

building across all the disciplines of the field.


Susan Lozier, President

Alan Mix, President-Elect

Mark Abbott, Past-President

Susan Cook, Secretary

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Teledyne RD Instruments

Oceanography | March 2016

Oceanography | Vol.29, No.1

As ocean sciences PhD recipients head out into the market for

jobs in academia, government, or industry, they likely reflect

upon what parts of their graduate school education will be rel-

evant to the wide variety of available positions. In particular,

graduating PhD students and postdocs applying to jobs outside

of academia may wonder what exactly they have learned that

will enable them to succeed at projects that fall outside of their

particular research area. If subject-area expertise is not always

essential, what other kinds of knowledge and skills did they gain

while working on ocean sciences PhDs that translate well into

careers outside of academia, or even outside of oceanography?

Perhaps some insight can be gained from responses to one of

the questions posed to ocean scientists who submit career pro-

files to Oceanography: “What did your oceanographic education

(or academic career) give you that is useful in your current job?”

Snippets from several of the responses follow.1,2

My education trained me to think critically and objectively. I

learned to not rush to judgment, but rather to carefully weigh my

observations before reaching a conclusion.

— Lynn Abramson, Senior Legislative Assistant,

Office of Senator Barbara Boxer

Each of my positions has required a broad knowledge of science,

the scientific process, and the ability to interact with a wide range

of constituencies; my training in Earth sciences and oceanography

has certainly provided that.

— Robert L. Burger, Associate Dean,

Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Yale University

Completing a PhD means running a significant project, and it

includes skills as diverse as fundraising, strategic planning, proj-

ect management, staffing, speaking and writing, and leadership.

These skills continue to be the most valuable ones I gained.

— Paul Bunje, Senior Director of Oceans, XPRIZE Foundation

The self-discipline and self-scheduling I learned as a PhD stu-

dent have been invaluable to me as I’ve had to figure out how to

meet deadlines and complete work on a variety of time scales…

The logistics, planning, project management, and capacity to

break a big project down into smaller pieces as well as the hefty

amount of thinking and writing that my dissertation demanded

have served me well.

— Ari Daniel, Digital Producer, PBS NOVA,

and Freelance Science Reporter

I use my academic training in data analysis, statistical tech-

niques, and programming every day in my current job, but

there are many other skills I have found profoundly useful. The

work I did generating plots for academic publications taught

me graphic design and data visualization skills, which I use for

building user interfaces.

— Jordan Dawe, Data Engineer, EnerNOC

Above all else, my oceanographic education instilled in me a

strong sense of integrity and inquisitiveness. Not only did I gain

knowledge, but patience and adaptability as well… A particularly

useful skill ingrained from years of working on board ships and in

laboratory settings is the ability to be a team player and nurture

a broad network.

— Tina Drexler, Geoscience Associate,

ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company

The first-hand experience I have had on Arctic icebreakers was

valuable scientifically, plus it has been a great way to talk with

the public and policymakers about the science. It is one thing to

tell someone you are a scientist, but when you tell them about

research you performed in a remote, hostile location…they are

much more interested in what you have to say and much more

willing to listen to the science you want to convey.

— Brenda Ekwurzel, Senior Climate Scientist,

Union of Concerned Scientists

Working Toward a PhD in Ocean Sciences

Hones a Variety of Marketable Skills

Insights from Oceanography’s Career Profiles Column

1 To review the complete set of profiles, including the answers to other questions we ask about their careers, job satisfaction, and job hunting,

go to

2 The job positions listed indicate where the person was employed at the time the career profile was submitted.


Oceanography | March 2016

My years in academia give me insight into the process of

science—grant writing, peer review, experimental design, incre-

mental progress. That experience enables me to tell science sto-

ries from a different perspective, perhaps a more human one,

and that is invaluable.

— Heather Goldstone, Science Editor,

WGBH and WCAI National Public Radio Stations

Without question, the education that I received has been a plat-

form for other, seemingly unrelated, achievements that followed.

My education gave me confidence, an understanding of hard

work, enduring friendships, and appreciation of strong leadership.

— Kerry Hegarty, Managing Director/CEO, Sienna Cancer Diagnostics

I would say that my skills in critical thinking, writing, and pre-

senting, developed and improved through working on my PhD

and interacting with my lab mates, are the skills that I have relied

on the most. The critical thinking skills and the ability to absorb

and digest new information quickly are invaluable in the policy as

well as the conservation fields.

— Winnie Lau, Program Manager,

Marine Ecosystem Services Program, Forest Trends

Problem-solving skills, experience managing projects, and telling

a useful story with messy data. In many things, there is often no

right answer but a family of solutions.

— Norge Larson, President, Sea-Bird Electronics Inc.

Resourcefulness. In the lab or in the field, when something goes

awry, you have to think on your feet and find alternative solu-

tions, sometimes with limited information or tools. This skill

transfers quite well.

— Kris Ludwig, Staff Scientist, Natural Hazards Mission Area,

US Geological Survey

Going to sea during graduate school provided a great training

environment for skills that can be applied for many jobs. In par-

ticular, I use skills such as logistical planning, teamwork, collabo-

ration, problem solving, and how to work with others in challeng-

ing situations on a daily basis.

— Mitch Malone, Assistant Director of Science Services/

Manager of Science Operations, Integrated Ocean Drilling Program,

Texas A&M University

My science PhD has been an enormous asset at every step of

the way. Simply having it helps open doors. More importantly,

the skills I developed as a graduate student are essential ones

that I still depend upon, especially the independent analysis and

problem-solving skills.

— Kathryn Mengerink, Environmental Law Institute

The skills that I find most useful relate to data analysis, statisti-

cal analysis, computer programming, and writing. Less tangibly,

but possibly most important, I think I picked up a commitment to

integrity and quality in my work as part of my education.

— Michele Morris, Consultant

My experience as a scientist greatly facilitates my ability to work

effectively with other scientists simply because I have a good sense

of how scientists go about their work, how they formulate and

refine their ideas, and how they communicate with each other.

— Audrey M. Rogerson, Director of Development,

The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University

Ocean scientists learn how to think critically, solve complex

problems, analyze and visualize data, communicate to peers and

to the public, manage large projects, and work as a member of a

team. These skills have enabled generations of ocean scientists

to succeed in a wide variety of careers. At a time when the ocean

sciences community is considering updating the PhD curric-

ulum to align better with the needs of current and emerging

job markets, any evaluation must recognize the importance of

these less tangible but absolutely essential components of grad-

uate training and consider teaching at least some them directly.

Ellen S. Kappel, Editor

Oceanography | Vol.29, No.1

In The Leopard, di Lampedusa’s novel set in nineteenth century

Sicily, the prince’s nephew assuages his uncle’s unease with recent

social and political change by remarking, “If we want things to

stay as they are, things will have to change.” Admittedly, it is a

far stretch from nineteenth century Sicily to twenty-first century

America, but the sentiment expressed by the prince’s nephew

succinctly captures the view, expressed by the many authors who

have contributed to this special issue of Oceanography, of how

graduate education in ocean sciences should evolve. Namely,

in order for our delivery of an excellent graduate education to

remain constant, our approach to that delivery must adapt to

intellectual, cultural, economic, and social shifts in the academy

and in society at large.

Such adaptation has been demonstrated by the response

of ocean science graduate programs over the past couple of

decades to a shift in our appreciation of the multitude of dis-

ciplines required to tackle pressing ocean research questions.

Today, as articulated in the special issue articles, we are facing

other shifts—in workforce needs, in ocean science research pri-

orities, in society’s expectations for federally funded research—

that again call for changes in how we deliver excellent graduate

education. Such changes are manifest in the programs described

in this volume, some of which have been in place for decades.

However, the fact remains that for the bulk of our current gradu-

ate students, there is a mismatch between the skills they are learn-

ing and the skills needed outside the academy, and a mismatch

between the careers they are trained for and the careers available

to them upon graduation. These mismatches rightly motivate a

community discussion on the future of ocean science education.

The Oceanography Society was chartered as a professional

society with a mission “to promote communication among

oceanographers, and to provide a constituency for consensus

building across all the disciplines of the field.” Consistent with

this mission, TOS seeks to facilitate and promote the current

dialogue on graduate education. Additionally, given that stu-

dents currently constitute some 46% of our membership, TOS

is increasingly aware of its responsibility toward this younger

generation of oceanographers: we can think of no better way to

serve them than to pay attention to their futures. Toward that

end, in addition to this volume dedicated to graduate education,

TOS hosted a Town Hall at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting last

month in New Orleans for an exploration of “What’s Right and

What’s Wrong with Graduate Education in Ocean Sciences?”

In order to gather background material for the Town Hall

discussion, TOS administered a two-minute survey with ques-

tions on the type of training students have had and are cur-

rently receiving, on the type of training current students would

like to receive, on career opportunities students would like to

pursue, and on career opportunities that those already in the

field think students want to pursue. Clearly, we were inter-

ested in exploring differences in perception among community

members. A look at the survey results from ~400 respondents

( shows

that some of those differences indeed emerged. However, most

interesting to me was the degree of consensus on two questions:

(1) How confident are you that recent graduates in ocean sci-

ences will easily find employment in the field of ocean sciences?

and (2) Do you agree that current graduate students in ocean

sciences are receiving the appropriate training for the current

job market? As for the first question, less than 10% of students,

early career scientists, and those in later career stages said that

they were “very confident,” while ~30% of the same group of

respondents said they were “not confident at all.” For the second

question, again less than 10% strongly agreed, while ~20% did

not agree. The vast majority of respondents were “neutral” on

this question. Surely this collective shrug from the community

is itself an indication that we have work to do.

On that Wednesday evening in New Orleans, about

130 oceanographers gathered for the TOS Town Hall. After

small group discussions focused on the question posed in the

Town Hall’s title, participants offered their thoughts on how

graduate education should change. For the most part, the ideas

voiced that evening—by current students, faculty members, and

oceanographers with careers outside of academia—echo those

advocated within these pages. From my view, the solutions

offered fall into two categories. On the one hand is a call for

programmatic changes—in curriculum, degree offerings, pro-

fessional development skills, mentoring, and so forth. On the

other hand is a call for structural changes in how graduate edu-

cation in ocean sciences is funded. A contemplation of struc-

tural changes would include an examination of questions such

as: Should master’s education be funded in addition to doctoral

The Case for a “Sea Change” in

Graduate Education in the Ocean Sciences


Oceanography | March 2016


education? Should more graduate support be shifted toward

fellowships and away from research assistantships? What is the

appropriate balance between graduate student, postdoctoral,

and early career support?

My own view is that in order to have broad-scale success in

the proposed programmatic changes, we need to take a hard

look at the structural barriers that may be impeding those

changes. Readers may recall that one year ago this month,

Sea Change: 2015–2025 Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences was

released ( chapter/1). That

report focused on ocean research priorities for the decade

ahead and made recommendations for the needed balance

between infrastructure and science to achieve those priori-

ties. In the wake of that report, on behalf of the contributors

to this special issue of Oceanography, I am arguing that a “sea

change” in graduate education is also needed. Just as a commu-

nity of oceanographers, selected and organized by the National

Academies, spent the better part of 18 months deliberating

the future of ocean sciences and then making recommenda-

tions to the National Science Foundation, we need a commit-

ment from the community, and from all federal agencies that

fund ocean sciences graduate education, to chart the future of

graduate education in the ocean sciences—a future that will

meet our social contract with our graduate students and with

society. TOS leadership will continue to push in this direction

because, frankly, if we want things to stay as they are, things

will have to change.

M. Susan Lozier, TOS President

Oceanography | March 2016

TOS Activities at OSM

The Oceanography Society sponsored several activ-

ities during the February Ocean Sciences Meeting in

New Orleans, Louisiana, providing opportunities for

members to meet and share experiences and ideas.

TOS Town Hall

In preparation for the TOS-sponsored Town Hall

on "What's Right and What's Wrong with Graduate

Education in the Ocean Sciences?" TOS compiled

the nearly 400 responses it received from members

who took the TOS graduate education survey. TOS

President Susan Lozier presented the survey results

at the Town Hall. During the evening event, the

~130 participants formed small groups to discuss fea-

tures of graduate education that should be retained

and ideas for possible changes. A concluding open

mike session gave participants an additional oppor-

tunity to share even more ideas and experiences.

Survey results are available at


TOS Breakfast

Over 340 members rose early to attend the TOS

Breakfast where new TOS Fellows Mark Cane,

Rana Fine, and Arnold Gordon were honored, as

well as the most recent recipient of the Munk Award,

Carl Wunsch. TOS thanks Sea-Bird Scientific for their

generous support of this event.

Munk Award Lecture

The audience for the society awards plenary session

listened intently while Walter Munk reflected on his

own experiences and many collaborations with his

"life-long" friend Carl Wunsch. Theresa Paluszkiewicz

of the Office of Naval Research then presented

Dr.  Wunsch with the award certificate bearing

the signature of the Secretary of the Navy before

Dr. Wunsch gave a compelling lecture on the "The

Imperative of Global Oceanography." Dr. Wunsch's

lecture, along with all award, keynote, and plenary

lectures are available for viewing at http://osm.agu.

org/2016/oceans-on-demand to learn more.

Oceanography | Vol.29, No.1


The Story Behind the Story

Ripple Marks


For Harlequin Ducks, Home is Churning Rapids and Pounding Surf

long-ago glaciers, and picks his way down

to the water’s edge.

His quarry lies where rock meets ocean

at jagged underwater ledges: the harle-

quin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus), one

of North America’s smallest and most

beautiful sea ducks. Although scientists

have solved several mysteries about

the harlequin’s unusual predilections for

rough seas and a salmon-like lifestyle,

others remain open.


To find answers, Paton has come to

count harlequins along Narragansett

Bay’s shoreline. In the 1800s, the ducks’

numbers along the East Coast peaked

at 5,000 to 10,000. Then, overhunting,

as well as habitat loss and other factors,

reduced them to about 1,000 before

hunting along the Eastern Seaboard was

banned in the late 1980s. With restrictions

in place, East Coast harlequin numbers

have rebounded to some 1,800 ducks.

Rhode Island’s rocky coast—Beavertail

in particular—is a winter haunt for these

brave surfers. With adult males’ dark blue

heads, light blue bodies, and chestnut

sides (adult females are a brownish-gray),

the ducks’ common name comes from a

likeness to the colorfully dressed charac-

ter Harlequin in Commedia dell’arte. Their

species name is derived from the Latin

word histrio: actor.

The birds are also known as lords and

ladies, offers Paton, lifting his binoculars

into the stiff wind to search for “bobbers”—

harlequins that dive down to snag a mus-

sel or crab, then somehow manage to pop

up again in the very same spot. White-

eyed diver, blue streak, and rock duck are

among the harlequin’s other names, for

good reason. “How these ducks can sur-

vive right at the crests of breaking waves

is a marvel,” Paton says as he points to a

harlequin that appears and disappears in

roiling waters.

Harlequin ducks are split into two pop-

ulations, Pacific and Eastern, according

to Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North

America. The Pacific is the larger, at about

200,000 birds. They breed from Alaska

south to British Columbia and inland to the

northern section of the Rocky Mountains.

Eastern harlequins, the smaller popula-

tion, nest primarily in Quebec, Labrador,

and Newfoundland. Satellite radio- tracking

and genetic data show two sub-parts to

The sea has gone the color of old silver, its

surface as smooth as a wave-worn shell.

It’s an hour before dawn on this −12°C

(10°F) day in January at Rhode Island’s

Beavertail State Park, a 153-acre rocky

promontory shaped like a beaver’s tail.

Beavertail juts out from the southern end

of Conanicut Island into Narragansett Bay

and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

Another hour passes; sunup is on the

horizon. Fierce winds begin to blow,

whipping the once-calm ocean below

Beavertail’s boulder-strewn cliffs into a

froth. Stepping onto the park’s steep—

and today, ice-covered—path to the sea

might feel like falling into gray oblivion.

Indeed, local newspapers once hailed the

area’s vistas, but warned that “the drop to

the Atlantic is an easy walk to eternity for

those not sure of foot.”

Peering through tangled, seemingly life-

less briars along a barely there track, Peter

Paton, an ornithologist at the University of

Rhode Island (URI), begins his descent.

Tough going awaits; the cliffs lie exposed

to constant erosion from sea and storm.

Covering his face with a scarf against the

biting cold, he carefully makes his way

around enormous boulders dropped by

Oceanography | Vol.29, No.1

All photos courtesy

of Ilya Raskin

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