Students a primary part of $6.74 million experiment

Students at the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science are working side-by-side with scientists and researchers on a U.S. Navy-funded project that will help improve weather forecasting.
Students a primary part of $6.74 million experiment

Top, left to right: Samantha Furtney, Ph.D. candidate, ocean sciences, Matt Birtman, undergraduate double major in environmental engineering and marine science, and Madeline Dawson, third-year Ph.D student, ocean sciences.

Bottom, left to right: Samantha Medina, third-year Ph.D. student in ocean sciences, Katrina Simi, first year Ph.D. student, ocean sciences and Jillian Zwierz, M.S, ocean engineering

They were treated as equals, not underlings. 

From assisting in the assembly of 40-foot-long buoys that collect critical information on near-shore wind and wave conditions to attaching special instrumentation on the high-tech devices that allowed them to do their job, graduate and undergraduate students from the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science have played important roles in an Office of Naval Research-funded study that will improve forecasting of land, air, and sea interactions.

In their own words, the students each give a summary of what they did as part of the $6.74 million Coastal Land-Air-Sea Interaction Experiment (CLASI).

Matt Birtman 

I am an undergraduate at the University of Miami, double majoring in environmental engineering and marine science.

I participated in the retrieval cruise of the CLASI project during the October 2022 expedition. During this cruise, I was a member of the onboard science team that retrieved the air-sea interaction spar (ASIS) buoys along the coast of California. I assisted in the actual buoy retrieval, controlling different mechanisms, such as frames for securing the buoys while in the water as well as securing them once they were brought back on deck. I also worked as part of the onshore crew that cleaned and disassembled the buoys for transport to the next location in Florida’s Panhandle. 

This was an incredibly valuable experience because it allowed me to not only apply the skills I’ve learned in the classroom and during my research with Professor Brian Haus in the SUSTAIN Lab but also to vastly expand my knowledge of fieldwork and how research expeditions operate. And I was able to do this while being an active and useful participant and member of the science crew. 

Madeleine Dawson

I am an ocean sciences doctoral student studying under Professor Hans Graber, and I just began my third year.

I am studying interactions at the air-sea interface through remote sensing of satellite images from synthetic aperture radar (SAR). These images are unique to remote sensing, as they help me to study areas of interest at an increased rate because the satellite images can see through cloud cover and at nighttime. They are frequently used by NASA, the U.S. government, and international organizations to study an assortment of topics such as national security, climate change, and emergency response. Overall, I am extremely lucky to be working under Professor Graber and to have Professor Brian Haus as the chair of my department. 

I participated on the most recent deployment of the CLASI buoy in January near Pensacola, Florida. My role was attaching special instrumentation to the buoys and preparing them for deployment. In addition, I participated in loading the buoys onto the R/V Neil Armstrong.

It was an extremely valuable experience for an early career researcher. Not only did I get the chance to learn extensively about the data collection, but I also was able to work alongside some of the best and brightest professors and scientists at the Rosenstiel School. There was much that I took away through this experience; however, what I can apply to my own studies will be from the data that is produced through this experiment. Merging in situ measurements alongside the SAR satellite data gives me an opportunity as a Ph.D. student to increase the accuracy of our models and advance research into ocean air-sea processes. 

Samantha Furtney

I am a Ph.D. candidate in ocean sciences. I am in the remote sensing group, and my research focuses on oceanic internal wave dynamics and interactions in coastal regions.

I participated in the Monterey Bay August 2021 cruise, and I assisted in recovering the ASIS buoys, changing the batteries, and redeploying the buoys in new locations. I was a member of the shore crew for the October 2021 recovery cruise, helping to clean and disassemble the buoys. I also participated on the shore crew for the July 2022 deployment cruise where we assembled the ASIS buoys and mounted all the instrumentation on the buoy frames. For the January 2023 Florida experiment, I was a member of the shore crew and primarily assisted with mounting the instrumentation on several of the buoys.

This has been a very valuable learning experience. Understanding how the instrumentation works and seeing the experiment sites in person provided a deeper understanding for the data analysis that comes afterwards; I am actively using data from previous cruises in my dissertation. Being a part of the field work also gave me better insight into what is involved in planning and executing a large experiment. Being a part of the CLASI project and assisting the team has been one of my favorite parts of my graduate school experience.

Samantha Medina

I am currently a third-year Ph.D. student in ocean sciences with a concentration on air-sea interaction. I am focusing my research on wave growth in time and space in coastal areas.

I was brought into my Ph.D. program to work with CLASI, and I have participated in both deployment and recovery cruises since 2021. Spanning two years in Monterey Bay, California, and this year in Pensacola, Florida. I have been on a total of five cruises thus far for CLASI. My role on these cruises was to help with the building and breakdown of eight buoys as well as assist in the deployment and recovery of the buoys and other instruments such as spotter buoys.

CLASI has been an invaluable experience thus far for both field experience and networking with the numerous groups involved in this project, further cementing my passion for this field of research. I am planning to use the data collected from instruments used in this project to help improve parameterizations for forecast models as well as improve our understanding of waves in coastal areas.

Katrina Simi 

I am a first-year Ph.D. student in ocean sciences on the air-sea interactions and remote sensing track.  

During the Santa Rosa Beach segment of the expedition, I helped assemble the buoys on shore and served as a research crewmember aboard the R/V Neil Armstrong, attaching sensors to the buoys, calibrating equipment, and helping deploy the buoys in the water. 

This was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had while at the University. The sensors used on the buoys are also used in the SUSTAIN Lab where I work, so I learned a lot more about what the sensors do and how they help us better understand air-sea interactions. 

Jillian Zwierz

I was a master’s-degree student studying ocean engineering under Professor Brian Haus and just graduated this past December.

I participated in the CLASI cruise out of Alameda, California, from July 28-Aug. 16, 2022, on the R/V Roger Revelle. I assisted in the deployment of eight ASIS buoys, and I supported the deployment of shallow water moorings in eight different locations in Monterey Bay. I operated a winch to lower subsurface moorings and anchors into the water and assisted in the castings of a conductivity, temperature, and depth device to collect data on water column characteristics in the locations of the deployed buoys. 

This experience has been incredibly valuable to me as it provided me with hands-on experience in the field. I became more familiar with instruments and methods used in the SUSTAIN lab and found overall enjoyment in collaborating with other scientists on their work.