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CFCC's Marine Technology training cruise program sets sail

Students completing the Marine Technology program at Cape Fear Community College are required to spend a little over a month at sea in order to get their degree.

The Marine Technology program has had a seagoing component as part of the curriculum ever since it was created in the 60s. The program currently operates 4 vessels, with the RV Cape Hatteras being the main ship for the at-sea training cruises.

Department Chair Jason Rogers said having these research vessels is important.

“As a vocational-technical program, we’re training students by doing. Employers tell us all the time, when they come to hire our graduates, they’re hiring them because of that practical at-sea experience," he said.

Over the course of the two-year program, students are required to complete five training cruises aboard the Cape Hatteras. The first two freshman cruises are biology-based, and the last three senior cruises are technology-based. Each cruise is a weeklong overnight out at sea where students are trained on the ship's equipment and learn about marine species.

Marine Biology instructor Jacqui Degan oversees the freshmen cruises.

“And on those cruises we do trawling with a bottom otter trawl to collect fishes in soft-bottom habitats, sandy habitats, and we pull a small metal dredge in hard bottom habitats to get more representatives that live on the live bottom. In addition to those collections of living organisms, we also collect water quality using a CTD, which is a conductivity, temperature, depth meter," Degan said.

In 2013 the program acquired the Cape Hatteras, a 135-ft vessel, from Duke University. At that point in time, the boat had already reached the end of its serviceable life. Rogers said that while it’s still safe to operate in an educational capacity, breakdowns are becoming more frequent and more costly.

“By us coming along and using the boat in a more reduced fashion, we were able to keep it rolling, but now we are reaching the end of its serviceable life, so the boat at this point is now 40 years old," he said.

Degan agrees: “I’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of, not things that break, but things that need extra care and the upkeep of the vessels themselves. I could definitely foresee a new vessel which is honed and made specifically for our program, it would definitely help the program.”

Graduates of the program are often hired by federal agencies like the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and Geo-data specialist companies like Fugro, as scientific support technicians. The Marine Technology program at CFCC is the only program on the east coast that offers this type of training that prepares individuals to use and maintain sophisticated equipment onboard marine vessels.

To help support the Marine Technology program contact Logan Thompson in the CFCC Foundation, or go here.