AUBURN — When she applied to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program last fall, Annmarie Babicki, a fifth-grade teacher at Park Elementary School, hoped to experience ocean research first-hand. Now on board the NOAA Ship Oregon II in the Gulf of Mexico, she’s getting that experience and more.

Babicki and the Oregon II scientific crew are on a longlining mission for sharks and red snapper as part of a project planned prior to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe. A newly added part of the mission will support NOAA’s seafood safety assessments in the Gulf. The crew will be catching fish to be analyzed for oil contamination.

The data that Babicki is helping to collect could also ultimately help scientists understand the health of shark and red snapper populations in the Gulf.

Babicki boarded the research vessel in Pascagoula, Miss., on Aug. 5, and spent 18 days assisting scientists with their shark and red snapper research in the Gulf of Mexico. She wrote logs that included information about important research of the day, life at sea, interviews with scientists and photos. The logs are posted on NOAA’s Teacher at Sea website at

Now in its 20th year, the program has provided nearly 600 teachers the opportunity to gain first-hand experience participating in science at sea. This year NOAA received more than 250 applications. They selected 35 individuals to participate in cruises.

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