November 3, 2021

My journey to becoming an Outreach Officer on the JOIDES Resolution

Posted by Laura Guertin

From April 7 – June 7, 2022, I’ll be heading out to sea on the research vessel JOIDES Resolution to join IODP Expedition 390 on the South Atlantic Transect. Leading up to my departure, I’ll be posting more about our mission, the ship, and scientific ocean drilling. You can follow these blog posts tagged with #DrGwIODP.


I’m thrilled to be joining the JOIDES Resolution as one of the Outreach Officers for an upcoming expedition. I’ve had experience doing science communication (social media and blog posts) while on a hydrographic survey aboard the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, but joining an expedition on the JOIDES Resolution has been one of those bucket list items for me, knowing so many people that have sailed on this ship and the incredible scientific discoveries that have been made. I’ve been asked by several colleagues what exactly that means to be an Outreach Officer and how you become one to begin with, so I thought I’d write up a post that details some of this information.

The Application Process

The JOIDES Resolution (The JR) website has a web page that details what it means to be an Onboard Outreach Officer and the goals of this program:

JOIDES Resolution Onboard Outreach Officers sail on board the ship to share the science story with students, families, and the general public. We welcome applications from classroom teachers, informal science educators, artists, videographers, writers, social media experts and anyone who can make a good case for themselves! Selected applicants will have the opportunity to learn shipboard science alongside the expedition’s science party and translate the exciting science happening on board through creation of blogs, videos, social networking sites, live ship-to-shore video events and development of educational resources. Successful applicants will be creative, flexible, friendly and hardworking. Some geoscience background is helpful.

The goals of the program include: [1] raise awareness of IODP; [2] promote and support IODP science; [3] inspire and promote STEM learning; [4] utilize IODP data in classrooms; and, [5] increase diversity.

There is also a video that provides a snapshot of what individuals in the role of educator/outreach officer do on a JR expedition:

I wanted to coordinate the timing of serving on board The JR with an upcoming sabbatical I was planning, so I waited to apply when I saw applications were being accepted for two expeditions (390 and 393) taking place when I would be out of the classroom. Before I even applied for my sabbatical, I applied to sail with these expeditions, hoping everything would align and I would be selected. But first – the application…

The online application required a 2-page CV, recommendation letters, answers to short essays, and a one-page proposal of projects/activities I would complete while on board and post-expedition. It was a lot of work pulling this together, but also so much fun to think about the possibilities of what I could do. I took inspiration and looking at blog posts from previous expeditions, the Three-Year Summary/Evaluation Report of The JR’s Outreach Officer program, and of course thinking about the Ocean Literacy Framework and Essential Principles. [The IODP 2050 Science Framework: Exploring Earth by Scientific Ocean Drilling hadn’t been released yet at the time of my application, but now it is a document I consult often!]

After the application deadline, I received an invitation for a Zoom interview with Sharon Cooper (Manager of Education/Outreach, IODP) and Co-Chief Scientists from both Expeditions 390 and 393 (which is actually a joint expedition) and one of the Expedition Project Managers. I’ll admit it was a bit intimidating being in a Zoom room where everyone had sailed on The JR but me, and I was explaining what I was planning to do for outreach to the co-chiefs (and as a scientist, I know there are the best-laid plans, and then what actually happens when you are in the field!). But I was confident with my plan and my record of science communication and outreach, and I enjoyed the conversation with the group.

Then, I was so excited to receive the news that I would be sailing on Expedition 390! I just had to complete the 18-page medical information packet and pass that approval (although the ship has a full-time medical physician, there are limited medical facilities on board –  I appreciate the thoroughness of the medical testing I was required to go through, as being in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean for two months means being several days away from the nearest port city).

The next step in my preparation to sail on Expedition 390 was the on-site training in College Station, Texas. Stay tuned for the next blog post in my journey to the JOIDES Resolution!