It has been an incredible year. I successfully completed the NIPPON Foundation / GEBCO Postgraduate Certificate program in Ocean Mapping based at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping / Joint Hydrographic Center (CCOM/JHC). My classmates and I, from 6 countries over 4 continents, have become a tight knit family following intensive lectures and practical sessions and now join the growing global network of alumni from this program which includes another former INFOMAR graduate, Aileen Bohan.
Although I gained invaluable field experience working with INFOMAR, I knew there was still a large gap in my own knowledge of hydrographic surveying. Working alongside an incredible group of classmates and the passionate staff and crew at CCOM/JHC brought a deeper understanding of multi-beam theory, survey design and data processing.
Initially nervous about being the youngest student on the program, the experience and skills I acquired as part of the INFOMAR team informed my learning in the classroom and ability to work in the field and provided much confidence. Being already familiar with many of the concepts allowed me to dig deeper into the theory; while familiarity with field work environment and working at sea gave me the confidence to step forward and better apply myself during the summer field course.
In addition to finding my feet in the classroom and at sea I had the opportunity to travel and have visited the NOAA Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, Colorado; the NOAA Marine Chart Division in Silver Spring, Maryland and the Seabed 2030 Atlantic and Indian Oceans Regional Center at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory in New York. I also joined the DSSV Pressure Drop on her transit from St. Johns in Newfoundland to Longyearbyen in Svalbard.
The combined skills and experience of working with INFOMAR and completing the NIPPON / GEBCO program empowered me to begin my career in earnest and I was very pleased to accept a position with Alpine Ocean Seismic Survey (Alpine) based in New Jersey as a Field Hydrographer. Alpine offers a wide range of geophysical, hydrographic, geotechnical, environmental and positioning data collection services to global clients. I expect, and am ready for, a steep learning curve and exposure to different surveys and am enjoying working with the team in New Jersey. I hope to maintain my links with INFOMAR and my class-mates while collaborating and building my professional network within this truly international industry.
On a more personal note, when I started with INFOMAR in 2015, I discovered an incredible industry, one which I thought was way out of my league. Not only a traditionally a male dominated environment, I was also overwhelmed by how much there was to know. Through the incredible mentorship and example that many of the INFOMAR team set, I began to see how I could fit into a career like this. I dreamed in 2015 that one day I would be a Field Hydrographer; heading offshore, constantly learning and meeting new people and working within a diverse team. Little did I know I would get here so soon. I hope my journey can be an example to other young professionals who hope to pursue a career in offshore work, especially young women hoping to pursue a career in marine sciences. It might not be glamorous, but it is pretty awesome!
Mekayla studied Marine Science at Ulster University from 2013-2017. She joined the INFOMAR team as an intern in 2015 based at the Marine institute in Galway. In addition to participating in hydrographic surveys, Mekayla focused on developing new techniques in hydrographic processing for the high resolution visualisation of World War 1 shipwrecks mapped as part of a collaborative project with Ulster University. The results were recognized by an industry competition for the best hydrographic imagery and was rewarded with a bespoke 3d print of the SS Polwell which sank in 1917. The project greatly contributed to the knowledge on these wrecks and highlighted the need for protection of underwater archaeology sites.
INFOMAR maintains a detailed database for over 400 wrecks it has surveyed to date and includes information on location, condition of wreck, dimensions and water depth. Please visit https://www.infomar.ie/maps/downloadable-maps/shipwrecks. INFOMAR is the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment funded national seabed mapping programme, jointly managed and delivered by Geological Survey Ireland and Marine Institute.
SS Polwell visualized as a point cloud (left) and a 3D printed model (right)