NOAA 99-R808
Contact: Jeanne Kouhestani


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has created a Web site that enables students with an interest in ocean science to track the operations of a Hawaiian-based NOAA fisheries research ship, the agency announced today. Through the Web site, students can also contact and interact with ship's officers and scientists while the ship is at sea conducting research on Hawaiian monk seals, coral reef fish, seabirds, lobsters, yellowfin tuna, swordfish, oceanography and more.

With the help of a Pioneer Grant, officers of the NOAA ship Townsend Cromwell, in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries Honolulu, have initiated "Student Connection." Utilizing the Internet and Inmarsat (satellite communications), the project enables students to track the vessel's position through posted electronic charts and to view pictures taken aboard ship and from small craft conducting research around the coral atolls. Though geared toward high school students, the project is open to all. Students and teachers can access the Web site and ask questions about what they see. Questions will be answered by a knowledgeable person aboard and posted back on the Web site for all to view and benefit from.

The Web site is:

"We're excited about this opportunity to provide an avenue for interested high school students in Hawaii to become more interactive in ocean research," said Townsend Cromwell's commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. John Lamkin, NOAA Corps. "Personally, I would have loved to have this kind of direct exposure to the marine environment when I was in school, and hope the kids here will get a lot out of it. The program will also benefit NOAA, because it will clearly demonstrate the type of data our ships gather for the protection of America's oceans and marine life."

The Townsend Cromwell donates about 10 hours a week to the project, performing such tasks as taking the photos, organizing the layouts, writing and editing the text, and receiving and answering messages from the schools. Honolulu Lab donates about three hours a week for the site's regular updates. The project is in addition to NOAA's Teacher at Sea program, where teachers actually get hands-on experience aboard NOAA ships and incorporate what they've learned into their classroom curricula. Student Connection will reach multiple schools simultaneously and enable the students to become more directly involved. There is no cost to the schools and participation is voluntary. The project relies on direct feedback from participating students and teachers to ensure the material is beneficial and maintains their interest.

As part of the NOAA fleet of research ships and aircraft, Townsend Cromwell is managed and operated by the Office of NOAA Corps Operations, composed of civilians and officers of the NOAA Corps, the nation's seventh service. NOAA Corps officers -- all scientists or engineers -- have an important blend of technical, managerial and operational skills, and support NOAA programs at sea, in the air and ashore. The ship is stationed in Honolulu and supports fisheries and oceanographic research of the National Marine Fisheries Service Honolulu Laboratory.

Townsend Cromwell's commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. John Lamkin, also holds a Ph.D in biological oceanography, and has frequently given lectures at high schools. Operations Officer Lt. Brian Parker, who is Student Connection's project manager, collaborated with David Kimball, Webmaster for the National Marine Fisheries Service Honolulu Laboratory, in the design of the Web site.