Month: November 2021

Meet Dr. Claudia Koerting, a Woman who Wears Many Hats

Dr. Claudia Koerting has been working in her current professional faculty position for the past 16 years, although she’s had various positions at UConn since 1997. Almost every graduate and undergraduate who gets a degree in the Department of Marine Sciences has had the opportunity to work with Claudia. Her current position includes serving as the marine science undergraduate coordinator and the honors advisor for the major, coordinating the Early College Experience (ECE) Marine Sciences Program, teaching several courses at Avery Point, and maintaining and helping students use the instrumentation in the SMALER (Suspended Matter Analytical Laboratory for Education and Research) Lab. 

Claudia graduated from the University of Rhode Island (URI) with a double degree in chemistry and microbiology, received a Master’s from UConn in Oceanography, and completed a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences at URI. Her interdisciplinary background allowed her to work on a variety of research projects, from Lyme disease to marine pathogens to the inhibition of bacteria that degrade oil and fuel. She emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary projects: “I like to combine all my backgrounds, cell biology, chemistry, and microbiology, (in the context of marine sciences) because any of them alone is boring to me.” She is particularly apt at analytical work, which made her the perfect fit to run the SMALER Labs at Avery Point. After taking on the role of a PhD level academic assistant for DMS in 2005, she has continued to add to her responsibilities by naturally filling vacuums she has observed, such as oversight of undergraduate lab courses. Of her career path, she says “It’s a great example of how everything you’ve done in your life, no matter how irrelevant it seems at the time, can be relevant to your future work.” When asked what a typical day on the job looks like, she laughs and says there is no typical day. 

Her favorite parts of the job center around helping students grow as scientists and researchers. “A big part of what I love to do is connecting undergraduates and high school students with research and ideas. I get to see them coming in as freshmen, and I get to see them going out as seniors. At the end of the day, when I look back and know that I’ve helped someone in some way, then I feel like I’ve done my job. It’s gratifying.”

Outside of work, Claudia has a passion for being outside, particularly sailing. She loves to be on the water year-round, but when she cannot get out onto the water, she also has a passion for hiking. 

Claudia driving the skiff (photo: Charlie Woods)

Dierssen Hosts the NASA PACE Science Team at Avery Point

Professor Dierssen hosted the 3-day Plankton Aerosol Cloud and ocean Ecosystem (PACE) Science and Application Team Meeting at the University of Connecticut, Avery Point in a hybrid format with 32 in-person attendees and 77 virtual attendees. Twenty-two in-person and twenty-eight virtual presentations were given, including 5 minute lightning talks from each science and application team member.  The hybrid meeting format facilitated a best-of-both-worlds opportunity to collaborate, to resolve sticking points, and to build partnerships, while sharing mission and programmatic updates and while advancing the science and societally relevant applications of the PACE mission.

The PACE satellite mission is slated to launch in January 2023 with new hyperspectral and polarimetric sensors to revolutionize the way we monitor the oceans and atmosphere from space. 

In-person attendees of the PACE Meeting pose on the Avery Point Campus. Dierssen is third from the left. (Photo: Oskar Landi)

Professor Ed Monahan’s “Message in a Bottle” reaches Russia

(This story includes excerpts from “From Galway Bay to Kola Bay – Research bottle set adrift 40 years ago reaches Russia” published in the Irish Examiner, 10/25/2021)

A message in a bottle cast into the ocean off Ireland’s West coast roughly 40 years ago has turned up in Murmansk, Russia last week – some 4,000km away. The bottle was discovered at Kola Bay, an estuary north of the port city of Murmansk, the biggest city in the Russian Oblast of the same name. Contained within the bottle was a small yellow postcard bearing the address of University College Galway – now NUI Galway’s – Oceanography Department, along with a request to return the bottle with details of where and when it was found. Current members of NUI Galway’s faculty identified the bottle as part of a drifter program run by Prof. Ed Monahan in the late 70s and early 80s. Dr. Monahan previously worked at NUI Galway, but is now emeritus faculty at the University of Connecticut. While at NUI Galway in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he conducted research with ‘drifters’ off Ireland.

The bottle, looking a little worse for wear after decades at sea (Photo: Ed Monahan via NUI Galway).

While it is possible the bottle was picked up by a fishing vessel somewhere in the North or the Norwegian Sea and discarded close to the Russian coast, Dr. White, an oceanographer NUI Galway, believes the most likely explanation is that the bottle simply drifted there via natural currents. “Currents in the Rockall Trough region will flow generally into the northern North Sea area and across to the Scandinavian side and beyond into the Arctic. However, the route would be determined by the winds and at any locality the weather systems so the route could have been very indirect,” Dr. White said.

The man who found the bottle in Kola Bay got in touch with NUI Galway’s College of Science and Engineering by email last week to notify them of his discovery and attached some photographs of it. The photographs appear to show that the serial number on the card – which would allow NUI Galway’s researchers to learn exactly where and when the bottle was sent to sea – has faded over time. Attempts to get back in touch with the man who discovered the bottle have so far been unsuccessful, but Dr. White’s Russian-speaking wife plans to send him another on behalf of the University in a bid to learn more about the bottle’s long journey from the west of Ireland to the Northwest of Russia.

Speaking on the re-emergence of one of his projects, he said “For this drift-bottle to be found 35 years after I returned from Ireland, and 15 years after I retired to emeritus status at UConn, was like “a welcome echo from the past.” I am pleased that my former colleagues in NUI, Galway, remembered my role in this study, and flattered that they saw fit to mention it to the press. It’s rare for a drift-bottle to be found so long after it was set adrift, but I am aware of drifters that have floated longer distances.”

Irish Drift-Bottle found near Murmansk, Russia

Two articles appeared last week in Irish newspapers about a drift bottle from a study that Dr. Edward Monahan established when teaching in what is now the National University of Ireland, Galway, from 1976 to 1986. Links to these articles are appended below. We will not know the particulars of this ballasted bottle’s drift until the unique number on the card in this bottle is distinguished – a hard job to do. But the working hypothesis is that this drift-bottle, found recently on the sea-floor near Murmansk, Russia, was released off the west coast of Ireland during the 1980s!