A Summer Intern Helps Scientists on EPA’s Research Vessel

By Maggie Reilly

I was reluctant to sign onto a week aboard the OSV Bold for a survey in Long Island Sound. I am prone to motion sickness and a week sounded like a long time. However, on second thought, I realized that the experience of living and working on a ship was something that I would never have the opportunity to do again. So, prepared with every over-the-counter motion sickness medication available, I boldly boarded the Bold.

My fellow interns and I were greeted by a friendly crew in New London, CT. We watched from the best vantage point as the captain and his crew orchestrated the pull away from the dock. I had seen pictures of the boat before but I didn’t realize how big she was until I saw her. She’s an old navy ship, retrofitted to conduct surveys to assist the EPA in monitoring critical areas. She runs on 2 electric motors, their original purpose to run quietly to spy on North Korean and Russian submarines.

The Bold was my home for seven days. We worked long hours, watching sonar scans of the ocean’s bottom, hoping to see more than just sand, and deploying the SPI (Sediment Profile Imaging system), which takes pictures of sediment. The work can be tiring, frustrating if equipment fails, and rewarding when you see something exciting.

I must say, I am not a scientist and lack some of the patience required. I had a previous encounter with oceanography and it was not for me. When I signed up for the class, I was expecting to enjoy a semester of learning about dolphins and sea-turtles…that was not the case. In fact, the first words out of my teacher’s mouth were, “if you were hoping to learn about dolphins you’ve come to the wrong place.” As it turns out, oceanography is a complicated mix of biology, chemistry, geology, and physics. There is often a delicate balance of elements where a small change could have huge effects.

In my studies of economics, we often use scientific data. Studies about an ecosystem’s health are used to calculate the ecological cost of contamination—measuring human impact is vital to creating mechanisms within the marketplace to curb damages. Even though I may not conduct experiments, I will use results in my work. From my time on the Bold, I now understand and appreciate these results better.

About the author: Maggie Reilly is a rising senior at Bates College, where she studies Economics and Environmental Studies. She has been a summer intern in the EPA Region 1 Public Affairs office and is a native of the Boston Area.

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