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Ocean Exploration on NOAA Okeoanos Explorer: NGI/MSU Grad Student’s Expedition is Chance of a Lifetime

March 23, 2016

Story PhotoSince she was young, Caitlin Ruby has dreamed of becoming an explorer like her dad, an oceanographer of 35 years.

Now, the Mississippi State geoscience/geospatial sciences master's student from Long Beach will have that opportunity as she embarks on an oceanographic research expedition in the western Pacific Ocean on board the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) vessel, Okeanos Explorer.

Regarded as "America's Ship for Ocean Exploration," the Okeanos Explorer is the only federally funded U.S. ship assigned to systematically explore the ocean for the purposes of discovery and advancement of knowledge.

After joining the vessel Wednesday [March 23] in Kwajelein, Marshall Islands, Ruby will sail to Guam, where she will depart on April 13.

While aboard, she will gain hands-on experience through the collection of oceanographic and geospatial data relevant to her graduate research. Additionally, she will have the opportunity to work closely with other scientists, including the expedition leader who has expertise in the analytical methods Ruby will be applying in research for her master's thesis.

Support for Ruby's research is being provided by the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information through the Northern Gulf Institute, a NOAA cooperative institute led by MSU.

ADdam D. Skarke, an assistant professor of geology at MSU, said along with being indicative of the strength and productivity of the longstanding partnership between MSU and NOAA, Ruby's participation in the expedition "reflects the Department of Geosciences' ongoing commitment to providing students with opportunities to participate in high-level cutting-edge earth and atmospheric science research." Story Photo

Skarke added, "Although her current travel is far afield, Caitlin will be applying the skills she gains on this expedition to analysis of data collected by the Okeanos Explorer in the northern Gulf of Mexico in order to better understand marine habitats and ecosystems in our own backyard."

For more details about the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research-sponsored expedition, see

Located in Hilbun Hall, the MSU geosciences department offers courses and expertise in several areas of the earth sciences, including climatology, geocognition, geography, geology, geospatial analysis and meteorology. For more on the department, visit,, or telephone 662-325-3915.

MSU is Mississippi's leading university, available online at

Story written by Sasha Steinburg