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July 19, 2005 > Teacher at sea having a whale of a time

Teacher at sea having a whale of a time

by Linda Stone

"I'm having a great time. This is an awesome experience; to be working side by side with some of the most talented people in their field is truly an honor," said Cabello Elementary School teacher Kimberly Pratt. Pratt is currently spending 20 days at sea aboard the McArthur II as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) "Teacher at Sea" program.

This 12-year-old program has enabled more than 360 teachers to gain first-hand experience of science at sea. This knowledge will help Pratt enrich classroom curricula with an in-depth understanding of oceanography after living and working side-by-side with scientists and assisting them in researching the ocean's marine life. The 224-foot ship engages in measurements of chemical, meteorological and biological sampling.

Several years ago while looking on the Internet for science information, she discovered the Teacher at Sea program and last year decided to apply. She is the only teacher onboard the ship.

Pratt keeps a daily log and sends it along with pictures to the New Haven School District's website. "I'm learning about abundance studies, marine mammals, birds, measurement, geography and map skills," she said.

A trip to a marine park when she was young fueled her fascination with whales and dolphins leading to a lifetime interest. "I love seeing the whales and the dolphins in the wild. So far I've seen Pacific White-sided dolphins, Humpback Whales, Sperm Whales, Blue Whales, and Killer Whales," she said.

Getting used to life at sea has its challenges. "I've sailed and kayaked before but this is my first experience being on a ship at sea," Pratt said. "I have gotten sea sick as I acclimate to different sea conditions, but nothing overwhelming."

Days are busy entering data for bird observations and taking measurements using a "Conductivity, Depth/Temperature" (CDT) device used for obtaining readings of salinity, temperature, depth, density and conductivity of the ocean water. When on board the Zodiac, a small craft used to get closer to ocean life, she is an observer, data recorder and back up photographer.

"My daily schedule is dependent on the weather. I need to report at 8 a.m., if the weather is good, I'm doing data entry for the "Birders," (Bird observation scientists), and then I do my e-mail and logs. At approximately 9:30 I report for CDT cast and Bongo Net Tow operations (a net used to gather ocean life). They last until approximately 11 p.m. If the weather is not so good, I do interviews, pictures, editing and answer e-mail," Pratt said.

The voyage will take her from Seattle south along the Pacific Coast, with stops around the Monterey Bay, Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Banks.

Meanwhile, she is happy living and working at sea, observing whales, birds and dolphins. "I'm having fun. It's really a blast," Pratt emphasized.

To view Pratt's logs and photos visit or

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