Q&A with Korey from the Jason crew

Q: What are the duties of a Jason:

  • Pilot: The pilot could be considered the watch leader for the group. He is responsible for the ROV at all times, as well as managing the navigator and the engineer to safely maneuver and accomplish all science objectives. He is the one who moves Jason’s arms with the joystick to put science gear in place and complete everything the science watch leader asks.
  • Engineer: The engineer is really like a right-hand man and more of a co-pilot than an engineer. He can use the manipulator to drive the ROV, like the pilot, which allows him to take care of things when the pilot needs an extra hand or extra set of eyes. The most important jobs of the engineer are managing the power, keeping an eye on the functions of the vehicle (leaks, etc.), and making sure that Medea is at a safe height in relation to Jason.
  • Navigator: The navigator is in charge of the positioning of the ship, during ROV operations. He has to make sure that the ship is in a place such that Medea is in a spot where the pilot can safely maneuver Jason. This can be a complicated task since Jason and Medea are dangling from a cable about a mile below the ship. To track the position of the ROV from the ship we use a USBL (ultra-short baseline) system. To use this system we put a pole in the water with a head on it that sends acoustic signals out to Jason and Medea and listens for their replies. The timing and direction of these replies tell us their position relative to the ship. Since we know the GPS location on the ship, the USBL system can then place Jason and Medea in the real world. The uncertainty is generally about 10 meters, so we have a really good idea of where Jason and Medea are at all times. This system is crucial for scientists because if we find a vent, or place a benchmark on the seafloor, we can get the actual GPS coordinates and make sure that anyone will be able back to the same location in future. The navigator is also in charge of being the DJ in the control van, this can sometimes be really good, or terribly awful.


Q: What is your educational background and how did you get to where you are today?



A: I graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee with major in computer science and a minor in electrical engineering. While in school, I joined our university’s MATE (Marine Advanced Technology Education) ROV team out of Monterey Bay. I was the president for three years and went to three international competitions. For the competitions, each team had to build a small ROV to accomplish some task, one year it was operating underneath ice. Being in this organization allowed me to understand what really goes into operating and building an ROV. In addition to being involved with the MATE ROV team, I was working for the WATER institute (now the school of freshwater sciences) and got a job helping to design, build, maintain, and deploy a scientific buoy array. After graduation, I knew I wanted to work with ROV’s and thought I had a pretty good background to accomplish this. I went to apply for jobs and found a posting for an electronics guy working with the Alvin submarine. I filled out the application, sent in my resume and within 3 days I got my first call for an interview. It took 8 months to get through the whole process, but eventually I got hired! I worked there for about 3 years then moved over to working with the Jason ROV crew.


Q: What is the most exciting part about your job?

A: The fact that I get to operate a $6 million vehicle–piloting Jason makes me really happy! The technology that goes into being able to sit on the ship miles above Jason and the seafloor, manipulating an arm to just even push a star fish out of the way blows my mind.


Q: How often are you out at sea each year?

A: About 5 or 6 months out of the year, and I love it. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t.


Q: How long have you been working with Jason?

A: About 2 years.


Q: What has been the best science moment you have been involved with?

A: Working in Alvin I helped discover a couple species of mussel when we were on a dive with an astrobiologist (looks at the seafloor and vent areas to study similar environments to other planets). It was my 3rd dive in Alvin and she asked me to take a push core of part of the bacterial mat that had mussels. We brought it up to the deck and turns out, it was a species they had never seen before!

On a later Jason dive I was a part of, she was out with a group and we found another new species of mussel!


Q: What exciting places have you visited because of your job?

A: Guam, Tokyo, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Newfoundland, The Azores, Bahamas and Barbados!

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