Hatching an Engineer
What does it take to become an ocean engineer? Here is the path that USGS Gerry Hatcher took.
Location Taken: Santa Cruz, CA, US
Music by Podington Bear (Jack), CC BY-NC 3.0 freemusicarchive.org/music/Podington_Bear/Driving/Jack
Music by Blue Dot Sessions (Heliotrope), CC BY-NC 4.0 freemusicarchive.org/music/Blue_Dot_Sessions/Aeronaut/Heliotrope_1250
It’s totally worth putting a little extra time early in life--in school and stuff-- so that you get an awesome career. Rather than have to sort of dread going into your job, you love getting up and going into your job because you are doing really cool, fun stuff.
My daughter came along and she said, “ yeah well dad’s got the fun job and mom’s got the important job.” (written on screen: MOM IS A NURSE!)
I grew up riding motorcycles and racing them. So that’s what sort of set a lot of this off. My dad had a good set of tools, and he would give me the general idea, and say go for it.
Well, I wanted to be an astronaut actually. And then I had a guidance counselor in middle schools that’s like, “You cant do that. You have bad eyes.” Like, ohh my god, now what am I gonna do? (written on screen: “And then in college”)
And then I got a job during the summers teaching sailing. Oh this is awesome I want a job where I can stay near the water! So I talked to the oceanography professor. He basically set me on track. I owe that guy my career. I have told him that, too.
At school I got to come out and go on a big USGS trip. And that’s where it all kind of came together.
So I have got to go to American Samoa, Bonaire, Hawaii a bunch of times, North Slope of Alaska to Barrow and Wainright, a bunch of places in Alaska that most people don’t get to go to.
I spent a lot of time on this boat, but I’d say most of my time is in the office, in the lab, working on building stuff. I mean my office is a like a workshop, it’s not really working on a computer doing spreadsheets or anything like that.
One of the reasons I went into the ocean engineering side of things rather than being in the science side—you know you are more locked into what you are becoming an expert in—I kind of like being an expert in helping everybody do their science.
My job is to make the data collection happen. Somebody will come over with an idea--something they want to do and it’s sort of a duct taped, and paper clipped, bubble gummed together kind of thing that sort of works. And then my job would be to make it something that we can actually take into the field and make it more user-friendly and robust.
So half of my time is supposed to be spent trying to figure out how to make something work or some new technology or whatever I put together, and I am there because it’s the first time it’s been used and for sure something is gonna go wrong.
Gerry Hatcher's parents
fieldwork photos and footage from Ann Gibbs, Li Erikson,
and Bruce Richmond
Guy Cochrane and Jamie Grover
Music by Podington Bear (Jack), CC BY-NC 3.0
and Blue Dot Sessions (Heliotrope), CC BY-NC 4.0
Filmed and produced by Amy West