Getting His Feet Wet
About halfway through his time at Washington College, Brendyn Meisinger ’13 had one of those ah-hah moments: He realized that his love for the natural sciences was a lot bigger than the classroom. Hands-on work in the field is what most deeply captured his interest and imagination, whether it was banding birds at Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory, or tagging turtles with Aaron Krochmal, assistant professor of biology.
“I loved environmental studies classes,” he says. “They were more interdisciplinary, and I got more than a handful of everything.” Majoring in environmental studies, he had a minor in biology and a concentration in Chesapeake regional studies. In the spring of 2011 Meisinger gave a campus tour to Doug Levin, who was interviewing for the deputy director position at the Center for Environment & Society. Little did he know how that meeting would affect his future. After getting the job at CES, Levin encouraged Meisinger to enroll in the Chesapeake Semester. The experience, Meisinger says, sharpened his focus even further. “Just incredible. I can truly say I learned more in that one semester than I did in all of the others combined.” When it was over, he knew he wanted a career that would allow him to work on or around the water.
Fresh off of graduating in May, he’s not only on the water, he’s looking under, in and through it as an offshore survey technician with Fugro World Wide, a Dutch-based firm with 250 offices in 60 countries, that acquires and analyzes data about the Earth’s surface, sub-surface and seafloor. Based in the Norfolk, Va., office, Meisinger spent the summer on a project jointly funded by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, gathering data for a proposed wind turbine facility about 23 miles off the Virginia coast. Fugro’s analyses of the water column, weather conditions, seafloor and subfloor help state, local and federal governments, as well as private enterprises, determine where to build structures such as wind turbines.
“I jumped into the job and am learning on my feet,” Meisinger says. “It’s a really happy medium, because it’s part computer nerd and part grease monkey, in the field getting the data and then on land processing the data and cleaning the gear.” The gear includes, among other things, side-scan sonar, single-beam echosounder, magnetometer, and sub-bottom profiler—“We call it a ‘chirp,’ because it makes a chirping noise, and that gives us a good 50 meters beneath the surface of the seafloor,” Meisinger says.
He cut his teeth on much of the gear in the Chester River and Chesapeake Bay on Washington College’s research vessels Callinectes and Lookdown. Working with Levin, Meisinger says, he learned how to build underwater robots, installed water-monitoring equipment, and mapped parts of the Chester River bottom. “He opened my eyes to all of this technology. I’d never thought about something like this before.” As Meisinger approached graduation, Levin called his friend and colleague, Kevin Morris, marine survey manager at Fugro’s Norfolk office, and gave Meisinger the highest recommendation for the survey technician job.
He also asked Meisinger to pass the torch to an up-and-coming Washington College student. Josh Morgan ’16 started to shadow Meisinger at the end of last spring, building underwater robots. Now, Morgan has picked up where Meisinger left off and hopes that when he is ready to graduate, their work together might enable Meisinger to give him a good word at Fugro. “This is exactly why I’m here at Washington College,” Levin says, “to open doors that will get our students paid to work on boats and see the world.”