Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

In the marine research community, one of the greatest honors is to have a research vessel named for you. Such is the distinction bestowed on retired USGS scientist Dave Folger.

Photo of a boat sitting on calm waters and decorated with a string of colorful flags.
Research vessel (R/V) David Folger.

In the marine research community, one of the greatest honors is to have a research vessel named for you. Such is the distinction bestowed on retired U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Dave Folger. The research vessel (R/V) David Folger, a 48-foot hydrofoil catamaran, is the newly dedicated research vessel for Middlebury College in Vermont. It will explore the waters of Lake Champlain while offering a state-of-the-art oceanographic platform for undergraduate students to learn the basics of marine research.

Dave Folger, who served on the faculty from 1969 to 1975, started the oceanographic research program at Middlebury by obtaining a 25-foot Coast Guard surf rescue boat, christened the R/V Bruno Schmidt after a distinguished and retired geology faculty member. With the help of students to maintain, operate, and conduct research from this old wooden vessel, Dave collected a comprehensive geologic and geophysical data set about sediment contamination in Lake Champlain from the International Paper Co. plant in Ticonderoga, New York. These data became the basis of many student senior theses and were part of two Supreme Court cases about pollution and restoration in the lake. (Learn more about the project at Middlebury College Blog: About David Folger.)

A man stands on a metal boat next to its logo.
Dave Folger standing by the logo and name of the vessel.

Dave subsequently joined the USGS in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in 1975, pursuing an active research career that included early environmental studies off the Atlantic coast, a return to Enewetok Island in the western Pacific Ocean to understand the impact of the nuclear test explosion on the atoll's geology, and investigation of the impacts of changing lake levels in the Great Lakes of North America. He also served as Branch Chief for the Woods Hole office between 1977 and 1982. Dave retired from the USGS in 1997.

The R/V David Folger is the third research vessel operated by Middlebury College. When the original Bruno Schmidt was retired from research in 1985, the college obtained a 32-foot Maine lobster boat, the R/V Brewster Baldwin, named for another beloved geologist on the faculty. In 2010, Middlebury geology faculty Pat and Tom Manley developed a proposal for the newest of the platforms, which was funded by a combination of research grants and private grants. The Folger is fully equipped with multibeam-sonar, CHIRP subbtottom-profiling, and sidescan-sonar systems. A future grant will help obtain additional geologic, geophysical, and oceanographic equipment.

Attending the October 20, 2012, dedication ceremony for the R/V David Folger were Dave's entire immediate family and nine of his former students, including several, such as Debbie Hutchinson and Dave Twichell, who were hired at the USGS in the 1970s. A short cloudburst after the dedication ceremony produced a spectacular double rainbow over the newly christened vessel.

To read more about the construction and journey of the vessel from Washington State to Vermont, visit Middlebury College Blog: The R/V David Folger. To read more about Dave, visit Middlebury College Blog: About David Folger.

A boat sits at a dock in the water with a rainbow touching down right next to it.
Rainbow on the R/V David Folger. Photograph by Lee Gove.