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NE Pacific Ocean

Women and STEM Careers aboard the E/V Nautilus

Susie Hill / Ocean Exploration Trust

Dr. Robert Ballard, Ocean Exploration Trust president and founder of the Nautilus Exploration Program, encourages women to join the Corps of Exploration on Nautilus, so that the next generation of female scientists, engineers and explorers can be inspired by women in leadership, especially in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers. His famous quote that he likes to share is “Nothing should stop you from following your passion.” So, I’d like to share the passion of these amazing eleven women currently aboard the Nautilus. 

What are the roles that Katy Croff Bell, Nicole Raineault, Stephanie Nebel, Clara Smart, Rachel Gaines, Tara Willis, Sarah Bizzoco, Bonnie Keller, Cady Coleman, Liz Smith, and Susie Hill have on the ship? We serve as expedition leaders, data managers, navigators, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) pilots, video engineers, communications coordinators, and educators at sea. Our jobs range from proposing and preparing the research expeditions to capturing exciting images and videos of the findings; from collecting and analyzing research samples to designing and operating high resolution mapping laser systems; from piloting and maintaining the ROVs to navigating the ship; to communicating and educating our onshore friends about Nautilus.


Most of my female shipmates became interested in STEM careers around the time they were in middle and high school because of their favorite math and science teachers. Nautilus Expedition Leader Nicole Raineault’s High School English teacher spoke at her graduation and said, “there’s no doubt that one day Nicole is going to be an Ocean Explorer.”  Cady Coleman, who is a NASA Astronaut and has been to space three times, said, “my Chemistry teacher, Mrs. Opp, loved science and believed all people should be able to understand and do science. “ Others were inspired by their parents, famous scientists, and work colleagues. Rachel Gaines, the first woman to pilot the Hercules ROV for a whole watch, started out as a musician but decided to change careers paths to electrical engineering after interning with the ROV team aboard Nautilus last year.

Their passions all turned into degrees in STEM fields such as ocean engineering, physical marine science, geology, geological oceanography, electrical engineering, astronomy, physics, science filmmaking, marine biology, and polymer science. The overall advice that these women have offered to the next generation of girls who would like to go into STEM careers is to study hard, ask questions, believe in your passion, and face the world! I have to say that one of my favorite quotes ever is from Tara Willis, one of our Argus ROV pilots, and she says, “Living life is a series of courageous decisions. Have courage and be strong.”  

So, girls, get out there and join us in the STEM World! You’ll have a blast!