For Tara Ingalsbe, there’s nothing more fulfilling than getting a great scoop of sediment.
A civilian oceanographer for the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVO) based out of Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss., Ingalsbe (’13, Marine Science; ’15, Environmental Science) is charged with collecting ocean sediments from around the world then analyzing their textural, chemical, physical, acoustic and engineering properties.
“The data we collect and the analyses we perform allow us to compose a picture of the ocean bottom – what it looks like and what it’s comprised of – which we provide to the U.S. Navy to support operations such as safe navigation and mission planning,” Ingalsbe said.
Ingalsbe has long been enamored with the sea. “I grew up in Central Florida, but frequently went to the beach with family and friends and always knew I wanted to work in some aspect of marine science,” she said. “When I began my studies at FGCU, the incredible professors and the opportunities they provided led me to focus on marine geology.”
Ingalsbe cites coursework and research projects with Professor Michael Savarese and Associate Professor Joanne Muller as instrumental to her career trajectory.
“They were my mentors and provided me with incredible opportunities to develop my skills and experience in the field. Dr. Savarese took me to the Bahamas twice to do field research, and Dr. Muller arranged for me to participate in a 23-day research cruise into the Arctic on the Coast Guard icebreaker USCGC Healy, which was incredible.”
Muller recalled that she “recommended Tara for the research cruise with Dr. Lloyd Keigwin from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on very short notice, and I wasn’t sure how she would respond, as she had never been to sea and had never seen snow. But she took the whole experience in stride. Tara is a dedicated scientist – hard-working, committed to research, and passionate about climate-change science.”
For three to five months of the year, Ingalsbe travels around the world aboard the U.S. Navy’s T-AGS 60 Class Oceanographic Survey Ships – dedicated research vessels known as the “White Ships” – conducting oceanographic surveys and gathering sediment for analysis back in NAVO’s Mississippi lab.
In her spare time, Ingalsbe practices martial arts – she’s a third-degree black belt in Chito-ryu, a Japanese style of karate – and works as a beekeeper in the family’s hobby-turned-business back in her hometown of Oviedo. “My sister initially got our family into beekeeping when she did a senior project in high school, and we enjoyed it so much we just kept at it,” Ingalsbe said.
“If I find any opportunity to do science things on the side, I go for it,” she confessed with a laugh.