College is Internationally Recognized for Training Ocean Surveyors

College is Internationally Recognized for Training Ocean Surveyors

The College of Charleston’s seafloor mapping program, BEAMS, is gaining international attention for training ocean surveyors who are landing jobs and breaking ground in the field. On one research cruise this summer, four College of Charleston alumni (from 2006-2012) and one undergraduate student were hired separately to conduct geophysical seafloor mapping off the coast of Massachusetts.

A recent article in Hydro International magazine said, “The rapid growth in new technologies for the ocean survey field has not been matched by the opportunities available for instruction in undergraduate coursework, nor has this growth been accompanied by a parallel growth of an informed and technology-literate workforce.”

Beam Team 2012 Cruise 163The article points to the College of Charleston’s BEAMS (BEnthic Acoustic Mapping and Survey) ­Program as a solution for this issue. It says, “the BEAMS Program has tremendous potential for generating many qualified ocean surveyors annually.

BEAMS students take courses linking marine geology, oceanography and geographic information systems. Most have also participated in a BEAMS training research cruise, completed an internship, gained practical experience at sea, and conducted research using seafloor mapping techniques.

Currently 13 BEAMS alumni have been hired full-time within marine geospatial private industry and 10 others are in full-time NOAA jobs doing survey work. At least 18 ‘Beam Team’ students (some who are still in college) have been hired for contractual part-time jobs, and more than 20 have had experience as interns. Approximately 40% of the CofC students who have gone on in this field are women.  Many students gain additional experience volunteering on ships.  This past summer, five students who completed the spring 2013 course volunteered as survey technicians on six different research cruises.

“Our alumni are literally traveling all over the world using knowledge and experience they gained at the College of Charleston,” says Leslie Sautter, director of the BEAMS Program and professor of geology. “One alumna is now in England, and will sail for 2 months from the Canary Islands before starting a three-year job in Tasmania doing mapping. Another student and alumnus just returned from being at sea with me for two weeks, off the west coast. We are unable to supply graduates for all of the available contracts and jobs! ”

College of Charleston senior Montgomery Taylor studied hydrothermal vents on an active deep-sea volcano and will be doing her Honors Bachelor’s Essay using data, rocks and seafloor map info from the cruise.  Alumnus Ryan Rembert is developing a Web Map Application to supplement future expeditions.

For more information about the BEAMS Program, contact Leslie Sautter at