Benjamin VanDine’s route to a career in the NOAA Corps ran through his love of diving, and doing research on corals in Bonaire during a college semester abroad. Today he is the officer-in-charge of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center's research vessel Gloria Michelle.
No Salt Water in His Veins
Working on the ocean was not on the radar early in Ben VanDine’s life. Born and raised in the small town of Eagle in southeastern Wisconsin, freshwater was his playground. He enjoyed the lakes and river systems of Wisconsin and “up North” in Canada. The only family connection to the ocean was his grandfather, who served in the U.S. Navy shortly after the Korean War.
Ben was homeschooled through high school. In 2012, he graduated from Cedarville University in Ohio with a bachelor of science in biology.
While in college VanDine tutored students in biology and organic chemistry, and served as a volunteer firefighter for the local fire department.
Then, he spent a semester on the Dutch island of Bonaire in the Caribbean. He is an American Academy of Underwater Sciences diver and a professional rescue diver. He used these skills to conduct independent ecological research and gather coral cover data for Bonaire National Marine Park. He was hooked.
Ben Finds NOAA Corps
Ben’s experiences with emergency management and marine ecology soon led him to combine those interests. During his senior year in college, he discovered the NOAA Corps while looking for careers with NOAA. He applied, and was accepted into the 121st Basic Officer Training Class in January of 2013. NOAA Corps officers train at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut alongside Coast Guard officers.
Ben’s first sea assignment was aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, homeported in Kodiak, Alaska. As a junior officer, his duties included safety officer, medical officer, dive unit officer, and acting operations officer.
In 2015 he headed to Miami, Florida. He served for 3 years as the research vessel operations manager for the small boat fleet at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. While in Miami, he completed a master's degree in fisheries and aquatic sciences at the University of Florida.
VanDine headed “up North” again in May 2018, this time to Massachusetts. He reported for duty as the new junior officer-in-charge of the 72-foot research vessel Gloria Michelle, working with Lt. Christopher Gallagher.
After 18 months, VanDine relieved Gallagher as the vessel’s captain, formally called the officer-in-charge, on October 11, 2019.
What's Ahead for Ben
Ben’s duties include:
Operating and maintaining the vessel.
Conducting research surveys and projects for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center and other partner organizations.
Giving tours to school students and the public when the vessel is in port.
Keeping up with certifications and training.
“Most students ask me what the sailing schedule is like for those of us in the Corps, and what kind of harrowing experiences I have had during my career so far,” VanDine said. “My advice for students thinking about a career in the NOAA Corps is to get time at sea, either as a volunteer or as a scientist. It is important to know what you are applying for, and logging time at sea on commercial or NOAA vessels is an excellent way to find that out.”
One of the most unexpected things he has experienced since being assigned to the Northeast Fisheries Science Center and the Gloria Michelle happened in May 2019. “While we were underway on the spring Massachusetts groundfish survey, we reported eight sightings of endangered North Atlantic right whales in Cape Cod Bay. Our reports were the basis for a right whale aerial survey the following day!”
His favorite part of the job: trawling. “I love fishing, and being able to contribute to fisheries and conservation research. I hope to continue trawling operations on my next vessel as well.”
For the next 18 months or so trawling will be part of his duties as the captain on the Gloria Michelle. There are annual spring and fall inshore groundfish surveys the vessel conducts for the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. After that, like most NOAA Corps officers, he will move to another duty station either ashore or at sea.
In his free time VanDine enjoys reading, fishing, hiking, and rock climbing.
For more information, please contact Shelley Dawicki.