Ship to Shore Connects Dominican Alumnae and Students

It was 5 am and the sun was just rising in the Pacific Northwest over the Hawaiian Islands when St. Mary’s Dominican High School alumnae Catalina Rubiano 11 and Hannah Paradis 18 on the international Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus connected with students and faculty from robotics, ecology, earth sciences, physics, biology, and the science honor society who had gathered in the Technology Center for a ship to shore session. During the next hour Catalina and Hannah shared what is like to be part of the Nautilus team.  

“Connecting with our graduates as they are actively engaged in research in the field is not only exciting but inspirational,” said science teacher Janine Koenig who arranged for the session and taught Catalina and Hannah. Seeing other science careers hopefully will encourage our students to pursue other avenues of scientific research and exploration. The research these young women are involved in is absolutely amazing.

Hannah graduated in 2022 from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Geology and is currently working on a master’s degree. Catalina has a BS in Earth and Environmental Science from the University of New Orleans (2019) and Master of Science in Marine Science from the University of South Florida (2023).

Catalina is a Navigator and Hannah is on the Science/Data Team. They boarded the ship on August 28 and will finish their assignment on September 28. The two did not know of their Dominican connection until they started working on the Nautilus. The Nautilus is a 68-meter research vessel equipped with remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and from other vessels chartered to deploy the Nautilusmobile ROV system. The E/V Nautilus Corps of Exploration includes engineers, scientists, technologists, educators, students, and mariners.

In 2008, Dr. Robert Ballard, best known for his 1985 discovery of the RMS Titanic, founded the Ocean Exploration Trust and acquired the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus, which continues to explore the worlds oceans with the Nautilus Corps of Exploration. The Ocean Exploration Trust and the Nautilus Exploration Program aim to explore the ocean, seeking out new discoveries are in the fields of geology, biology, and archeology, while developing and testing innovative tools and technologies for science and communications.

There are up to 31 members of the science team and 17 of the ship’s crew. All contribute in various ways to the expedition, sharing their unique skills and passions. Expeditions center on scientific exploration of the seafloor, collaborating with the broader research community to identify priority regions and phenomenon, and sharing its expeditions with explorers around the world via live telepresence. Inspiring and motivating the next generation of explorers and STEM professionals is a central pillar of the Ocean Exploration Trust mission. Ocean Exploration Trust and E/V Nautilus educational initiatives have connected global learners of all ages with deep sea exploration, science, and technology. 

Work is exciting and enlightening. As a Nautilus scientist, Hannahs work includes: observe ROV dive operations while simultaneously logging focused observations to accompany incoming video band data feed; watch for unique organisms, animal behavior, or seafloor features, and identify sightings or note when the seafloor changes in a special way. Scientists also collaborate with the Nautilus Network of Scientists Ashore that includes other research specialists who participate in the expedition via telepresence from around the world. A core part of her work is outreach and connecting with students.

Among Catalinas navigator responsibilities: helping guide and coordinate the Nautilus robots on their dives, giving regular operational updates, and status of weather, ship maneuverability, and technical systems. Taking into consideration weather conditions, ship speed, and timing constraints, navigators also work closely with seafloor mappers to identify targets and build navigational plans for multi-beam sonar mapping surveys.

Since 2020, Ocean Exploration Trust has been working to build an equitable and ethical relationship with the Papahānaumokuākea Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group to appropriately weave Hawaiian culture into deep sea exploration expeditions. Kānaka ʻŌiwi (Native Hawaiians) have participated on expeditions in diverse roles including those who play major supportive roles from shore towards building a collective pilina (relationship) to the kai lipo (deep sea). 

Exploring underwater ancient volcanoes formed 100s of million plus years ago is a unique experience. At the end of the day, we know more than we did before about the ocean, shared Catalina, noting that having a cultural liaison on the team is unique and special. It is important to honor the people and their ancestors. It has been a privilege to be part of the spiritual and cultural connection to what we are exploring.

Their advice to Dominican students: It is important to follow your passions, shared Catalina. Whatever career path is chosen, Hannah said, Make sure you have confidence in yourself, believe in yourself that you deserve to be there.