UTEP Doctoral Student Will Help Map Pacific Ocean Seafloor Aboard Exploration Vessel Nautilus

An environmental science and engineering doctoral student from The University of Texas at El Paso will set sail on a mission to help map the Pacific Ocean seafloor this week.

Stephen Escarzaga will be part of the crew of the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus, a research vessel operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust. The internship opportunity is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Cooperative Science Center for Earth System Sciences and Remote Sensing Technologies (NOAA-CESSRST). UTEP is a NOAA-CESSRST partner institution.

Escarzaga will be on the E/V Nautilus from October 4 to 18, 2018, as it maps the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone from San Francisco to Honolulu.

“I’m extremely honored to have been chosen for this opportunity,” Escarzaga said. “This is certainly something that, even as early as a year ago, I never thought would cross my path. Having been born and raised in El Paso, the opportunity to work aboard a research vessel at sea for three weeks isn’t one that comes often. I hope to come away from this experience with the solid technical skills that will advance me in my dissertation work. I also hope to gain valuable experience in working in an operational science setting seen in agencies such as NOAA-CREST (Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Center).”

E/V Nautilus | Courtesy E/V Nautilus /Twitter

While on the E/V Nautilus, Escarzaga will conduct seafloor mapping surveys, assist with science and education activities, network with STEM professionals and experience the life of at-sea exploration.

A typical working day on the ship is approximately 10-14 hours. Escarzaga is well-versed in NOAA-CREST opportunities.

He is a previous recipient of a NOAA-CREST Ph.D. Fellowship as well as the organization’s Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Public Service Graduate Scholarship.

In addition, Escarzaga took part in a weeklong training session in coastal airborne imagery data processing at the NOAA Remote Sensing Division in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He spent the last three summers in Northern Alaska conducting research.

Escarzaga expressed gratitude toward his advisers at UTEP — Craig E. Tweedie, Ph.D., professor and director of the Environmental Science and Engineering Program, and Miguel Velez-Reyes, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

“Dr. Tweedie has continuously provided a wealth of guidance and support over the past 3 to 4 years. His 20-plus years of Arctic research has allowed me to expand my area of research well beyond the Chihuahuan Desert and into places I never thought I’d visit,” Escarzaga said.

“Additionally, my co-advisor, Dr. Miguel Velez-Reyes, has brought a technical aspect of remote sensing to my graduate studies that will allow me to properly apply aspects of the technology to coastal and nearshore issues in the Arctic.”