You just never know what’s out there. That’s what Leslie Sautter, associate professor of geology, loves about the ocean: It’s uncharted territory. It’s what she loves about teaching: It inspires exploration. And it’s what she loves about working with alumni: It leads to one discovery after another.

Leslie Sautter

Leslie Sautter

Through Project Oceanica, which she founded in 2001, Sautter integrates education with oceanographic research and at-sea exploration, developing educational resources and programs available to undergraduate students, high school students and K-12 educators – many of whom are College alumni themselves.

RELATED: Read more about Project Oceanica.

Among the many initiatives under Project Oceanica, the BEAMS Program involves geophysical seafloor mapping aboard a research ship. The goal is to lead students to a place that’s still unexplored: the ocean floor – of which less than 1 percent has been mapped in high detail.

RELATED: Read about a project that mapped portions of the sea floor.

“There is much to be gained from continued mapping of the seabed: These studies not only generate important information, they also contribute toward training a new generation of scientists and marine surveyors,” says Sautter, adding, “I don’t ‘teach’ research to my students; they discover it. To me, it’s about exploration, discovery and the directions in which our students can go.”

And there’s no telling what they’ll find when they do.

This article originally appeared in the summer 2014 issue of College of Charleston Magazine.