Cathy Green

Education Coordinator, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary 

On Your Career…

What is your educational background?
Indiana University – BA History and Fine Art
East Carolina University – MA Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology

How did you end up in the field you are in today?
I was working at the Bermuda Maritime Museum in their collections, and a field school in underwater archaeology took place there one summer. I was intrigued with what they were doing and decided to go back to graduate school to study shipwrecks. I also had a background in teaching, instructing the humanities courses on a semester at sea program aboard tall ships. Those experiences dovetail well with archaeology and history for my job with the marine sanctuary program – not just studying shipwrecks, but teaching others about them.

Who or what inspired you to pursue this career?
Honestly, don’t we all want to be Indiana Jones? It is an exciting career that allows you dive on amazing shipwreck sites and delve into historical archives around the world. Can’t beat that!

How and where do you conduct your work?
Much of my work is based in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Northeast Michigan, on Lake Huron. As education coordinator, it is my job to bring the stories of these shipwrecks to the public. One day, that might mean gathering information on a shipwreck by diving on it document it. Other days, it means going into classrooms and teaching students about the wrecks of Thunder Bay. Some of my best days are leading students or teachers on snorkel trips to shallow shipwreck sites, or taking them out on a visiting tall ship to experience what it was like to work and travel on Thunder Bay 150 years ago.

What tools and/or technologies do you use in your work?
Tools for nautical archaeology can be as simple as an underwater drawing slate and pencil. Other times, video and still cameras, remote sensing equipment, and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) area involved. At our building, the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, we use museum exhibits, telepresence distance learning equipment, and Science on a Sphere, a technology NOAA developed to show information scientists collect displayed on a giant globe to teach our visitors about maritime heritage and NOAA science and research.

What research projects are you currently involved in?
We are always doing archaeological and historical research on our wrecks at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Assisting with that, and then getting that information out to the public is my main job. I recently got to spend a month on the NOAA ship Hi’ialakai out in the Pacific Ocean, looking a shipwrecks in the Northwest Hawaiian Island as part of a research cruise to Papahanaumokukea Marine National Monument (our newest site in the marine sanctuary program).

What have you learned so far from your research?
We have learned some of the forgotten stories of the ships and the people that sailed the Great Lakes and the oceans. There is always more to discover and to share.

What do you like the best about your job?
Learning about interesting stories through archaeology and historic research, and then being able to pass my enthusiasm for what I learn to other people, especially students.

What do you like the least about your job?
It is very cold in Thunder Bay in the winter – so no diving, and you have to stay inside most of the time.

What are the most common misconceptions that people have about what you do?
We are not ‘treasure hunters.’ Studying shipwrecks is not about finding gold and jewels, it is about recovering stories and information about the past from the things people have left behind (even if they didn’t mean to leave them behind…like shipwrecks).

Where have you traveled for your work?
All over the place, The entire East Coast of the United States, much of the Caribbean, Texas, Southern California, Micronesia, the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, and all around the Great Lakes region.

Where’s your favorite place that you’ve been to so far?
The Great Lakes, by far, have the best and most intact shipwrecks. Wisconsin has a particularly incredible collection of 19th century shipwrecks. The Northwest Hawaiian Islands are pretty special as well – so remote with abundant marine life.

What is the most incredible thing that has happened to you while conducting your work?
Having the opportunity to sail on tallships while teaching maritime history on the East and West Coasts. There are just so many extraordinary places you can’t get to easily any other way. And of course, you are sharing the voyage with a crew of great people.

What are some of the different career opportunities that are associated with the work that you do?
Marine Archaeologist, Maritime Historian, Cultural Resource Manager, Teacher/Instructor, Maritime Museum Staff

What advice would you give to kids who are interested in studying science?
Archaeology combines science and history – so keep an open mind at school for studying lots of different subjects and explore how they can fit together. Think outside the box, if there is something you really like to do, find a way to work it into your career!

On Exploring the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary…

Why do research in the ocean in general and in the Thunder Bay region specifically?
The stories of the shipwrecks of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and beyond will be lost unless we research, document, and pass on those stories. These stories tell us about how people worked, lived, and sometimes died on the Great Lakes – making this part of the country the way it is today. These stories help to tell us who we are.

What about doing work in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is most exciting to you?
SCUBA diving is the most exciting part of the job. Visiting these shipwreck sites in person is an incredible experience. Exploring a shipwreck for the first time is hard to beat.

What one thing would you most like kids to learn from studying the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary?
These shipwrecks belong to you – all of you. These are important reminders of the past that need to be preserved. Taking artifacts from them is like tearing pages from a book – the reader will never know the full story. It is our job at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary to tell the stories. To do that effectively, we need all those artifacts left in place.

On Being a Kid…

What kinds of books did you like to read when you were a kid? Why?
I read tons of books. My favorites are adventure stories, especially fictional stories based on real history.

What was your favorite subject when you were in middle school?
History and art

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I didn’t know, but I knew I wanted to travel.

What advice do you wish that someone had given you when you were a kid?
Don’t worry about what other people think, do what you want to do…and have some real adventures of your own.

On the Rest of Life…

Who are some of the people you look up to or admire?
Teachers! People who make it their first priority to help others.

When you are not working, what do you like to do for fun?
Sail, draw, paint, read, garden, cook, and most of all play with my kids – twin boys.

Do you have any final thoughts or words of advice that you would like to share?
Get outside and have some adventures!

JASON Learning: A Partnership of Sea Research Foundation and National Geographic