Top Oceanographer Calls Marine Biology Program “Tremendous”
It’s one thing for landlubbers smack dab in the middle of the country to be impressed by the marine biology and aquarium science facilities at Central Campus. But it’s quite another when a world renowned oceanographer like Dr. David Gallo tours them and his jaw drops like a shark’s at feeding time.
Dr. Gallo is the Director of Special Projects at the world famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Woods Hole is the largest private, nonprofit ocean research, engineering and education organization in the world. And they work on a lot of special projects there. Right now a team is readying to go in search of the giant squid first imagined in the Jules Verne classic, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Dr. Gallo’s in town to speak as part of DMACC’s iWeek festivities and Supterintendent Nancy Sebring encouraged DMACC West Campus Provost Tony Paustian to bring him to Central to meet and talk with students.
Here’s a man who’s been to the ocean floor and back many times, leading expeditions to the resting place of the HMS Titanic that he calls “ghostly” voyages “into eternity” and in search of sunken airliner black boxes that equate to “searching for a shoebox in the Rocky Mountains at night with a flashlight.” So when “unbelievable” and “incredible” and “impressive” and “tremendous” are sprinkled throughout his commentary like fish food while senior Rosalie Henson, who plans a career in marine biology, guides him through the labyrinth of exotically stocked tanks at Central you figure they’re adjectives coming from someone who’s already seen an awful lot of what there is to see underwater.
By way of introducing himself to his audience, Dr. Gallo listed an ADD/PhD among his credentials. He said he was always uncomfortable and distracted in school until he saw a National Geographic special about undersea exploration and the switch flipped on a curiosity that’s oceanic in scope and still unquenched. His post-secondary education started at a community college. Now he’s an Italian-American ‘Jacques Cousteau’ cruising deep beneath the seven seas in a submersible named Alvin, an aquanaut instead of the astronaut he fantasized becoming as a boy. He talks about the seas the same way Carl Sagan did about outer space.
He told the students that “it’s important to learn what’s already known, but dreaming is a big part of science,” and likened scientific inquiry and research to sequential leveling in video games. He talked about the oceans being as deep as jets fly high, about the Gulf Stream being a river of heat running through them. He said the tallest mountains on earth stem from the ocean floor, sounding all the while more poetic than scientific, even comparing the 250+ scientists at Woods Hole to an orchestra.
As impressed as he clearly was by the facilities, Dr. Gallo seemed equally so by the inquisitive students he encountered. When he narrated a PowerPoint about a Titanic expedition, one who’s been studying the legendary ship for several years took up where Gallo left off. Others peppered him with questions about the physiological effects of prolonged deep water diving in a bathysphere. Another hypothesized about the potential of deep water research projects leading to the discovery of undersea freshwater lakes.
Dr. Gallo claims he sees something amazing every day in his work “and today it was this place,” the sort where careers like his can truly begin. “When I go back to Woods Hole I’ll be babbling about this for some time.”
In his wake will be some marine bio students in Des Moines of all places, readying to dive headlong into the future.
To see photos of Dr. Gallo’s visit to Central Campus, along with some of the school’s aquarium facilities, please view the slide show below:
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