Lake Butler teacher begins two-week trek charting Gulf of Alaska

Robert Ulmer, physical, biological, and earth sciences teacher at Lake Butler Middle School, will be aboard the NOAA Ship Rainier while scientists conduct a hydrographic survey. (Photo courtesy of the NOAA)

Published: Friday, June 14, 2013 at 5:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 14, 2013 at 5:53 p.m.

An eighth-grade teacher at Lake Butler Middle School will be embarking on the trip of a lifetime Saturday to help scientists chart the ocean floor in the Gulf of Alaska.

Robert Ulmer will be working side by side with scientists from Saturday to July 4 through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Teacher at Sea program.

Jennifer Hammond, director of the program, said NOAA sends teachers out to sea for about two weeks to be a part of the scientific research team.

“It gives teachers a hands-on research experience so they can see how real-world experience is done and how it impacts their students,” she said.

Ulmer said the trip starts in Juneau, Alaska, on the NOAA ship Rainier and will end in Kodiak, Alaska.

“I'm kind of excited about getting away from 90-100 degree temperatures for a few weeks,” he said.

Ulmer said he will be working with the science crew on the ship and work on a hydrographic survey of the Gulf of Alaska. He will be developing maps and charts of the sea floor and the coastal land.

NOAA has been charting that area for more than 100 years, Ulmer said. It is an area where a lot of ships travel for commerce and tourism.

“I'll be in great hands,” he said. “The ship Rainier and NOAA have a great reputation for these kinds of things.”

Hammond said that while at sea, Ulmer will be writing a blog, posting videos and photos. He also will write lessons that he will teach to his students.

When NOAA accepts teachers at sea, Ulmer said the notion is that the teachers will become more educated and take that education to their classrooms, peers and the community at large.

This makes the teachers' experiences available and gives access to NOAA's resources to other people.

Ulmer said he is an explorer by nature and likes to hike and travel.

“I'm excited about having new experiences that not a lot of people get to have,” he said.

Ulmer said he is trying to continue his education throughout his life, and last summer he also worked with a shark expert through NOAA. He still takes classes at the university level and wants to be a lifelong learner, he said.

“I believe we're all students, and we're all teachers,” he said. “One of our missions should be to explore the world — try to look at it through new eyes. I look at everyone to explore in their own way.”

Ulmer's blog can be found at:

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