By, Melissa Volkert
Meet Valerie Rennoll, the Office of Coast Survey’s first Ernest F. Hollings (Hollings) Scholar on a NOAA vessel.
Originally from Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, Valerie discovered the Hollings Scholarship from a professor at American University while working toward her double major in physics and audio technology. She found that the scholarship program aligned well with her interests as she learned of NOAA’s extensive work with underwater acoustics.
“I was excited by the idea of exploring applications of underwater acoustics and decided to submit an application,” explains Valerie.
For the first six weeks of her internship, Valerie was based in Silver Spring, Maryland, where she investigated the use of data from outside sources to evaluate Coast Survey’s nautical charts. Coast Survey aims to make the best use of the large amount of data received from outside sources in the most responsible way possible.
The data Valerie processed and analyzed was from U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The Healy has been transiting the Bering Strait, Valerie’s targeted area, for the past ten years. Although the Healy was in the area for other reasons, depth data was also collected during that time.
Using a general workflow that she created, Valerie processed the data and compared it to charted data. She focused on areas that showed a disagreement greater than ten meters in depth. Valerie prepared a descriptive report summary to the Hydrographic Surveys Division describing these areas and recommended updates.
For the following three weeks of her internship with Coast Survey, Valerie was on board NOAA Ship Fairweather, continuing her initial project while also receiving training in traditional hydrographic surveying. The Fairweather was transiting Valerie’s targeted area of the Bering Strait. In fact, she used information collected by the Fairweather to compare to the Healy data. With this, her internship was all-encompassing—she was able to experience the analysis as well as the collection of depth data.
“My favorite part of the internship was going on board NOAA Ship Fairweather. The whole crew was so welcoming and I was really able to delve into learning about hydrography. I was also lucky enough to earn my Blue Nose Certificate for crossing the Arctic Circle and the Golden Dragon certificate for crossing the International Date Line. The whole experience was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Valerie.
NOAA’s Hollings Scholarship program provides support for undergraduate student training in NOAA mission sciences, teacher education, environmental literacy, and helps prepare students for public service careers within NOAA and other science agencies. This is the first time Coast Survey has had the honor of hosting a Hollings Scholar for a summer internship.