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Local teen heads to high seas for research, experience

Crista Kieley

Crista Kieley, a senior from the Beaumont School in Cleveland Heights has been selected as a 2016 Honors Research Program student by the Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) to sail aboard exploration vessel (E/V) Nautilus during one of the ship's 2016 Exploration Program expeditions, which offer participants hands-on experience in ocean exploration, research, and communications.
 
"It's going to be a challenging opportunity," says Kieley. "There's going to be a lot of work involved, but I'm excited because I know we're going to learn a lot."
 
She leaves for Rhode Island on July 9, where she'll be one of eight high school seniors from across the country at the University of Rhode Island (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) engaging in a four-week academic summer program followed by one week aboard the 211-foot Nautilus. Students will live at URI and will work with scientists, engineers, and science communicators in a program that highlights the interdisciplinary nature of ocean science and exploration.
 
"In Rhode Island, we're going to be doing some workshops and work with ocean drifters, which are used to measure currents," says Kieley, "and on the vessel, we'll be doing data logging."
 
Upon completing the dockside portion of the program, the students will become members of the Corps of Exploration on the Nautilus. The 2016 cohort includes 22 students and 17 educators from around the world that were selected by the OET from a competitive pool of applicants hailing from educational and non-profit organizations in twenty states across America and Australia. Their participation in the program is part of OET's mission to explore the ocean by seeking out new discoveries in the fields of geology, biology, maritime history, archaeology, physics, and chemistry while pushing the boundaries of STEM education and technological innovation. Kieley's Nautilus adventure is one of several expeditions from May through September in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
 
The group will explore the California Margin, a broad area off the coast of California in that is crisscrossed by seismically active faults. Kieley and her peers will stand watch alongside scientists and engineers. They'll also participate in live interactions with shore-based audiences via Nautilus Live, a 24-hour web portal by which landlubbers can keep track of the action. The group will also communicate via social media including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
 
This is not the University Heights native's first multi-day mission amid the waves. She has twice participated in the Rotary Club of Cleveland's Youth Empowered to Succeed though Sailing program – Project YESS. As a "novice" in a 2014 and "ambassador" in 2015, she sailed the Great Lakes aboard the tall ship S/V Dennis Sullivan.
 
"It was not only sail training," says Kieley of her time on the Sullivan. "We did a lot of water quality testing while we were out there."
 
Even with that experience under her belt, she admits she's harboring a little trepidation regarding the forthcoming trip on the massive state-of-the-art Nautilus research vessel.
 
"I'm just nervous because it's doing something I've never done before," she says, adding nonetheless that she is excited to have such an immersive opportunity to learn about the field of oceanography.
 
"I'm really looking forward to the week at sea."
 

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit erinobrien.us for complete profile information.
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