Major: Marine Biology
Career: Ensign, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commission Corps; Plank owner, NOAA fishery research vessel Reuben Lasker
Cherisa Friedlander ’08 always knew her life would revolve around the water. She was a competitive swimmer growing up and competed on the URI team for four years. She majored in marine biology, interned at the lobster rearing facility at New England Aquarium and spent her summers working at Save the Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium in Newport. All of that eventually led to her first steps toward earning her captain’s license, which launched her maritime career.
A year ago Ensign Friedlander was selected for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Commissioned Corps, one of the nation’s seven uniformed services (the others are Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps). After five months of officer training at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, she was assigned to a fisheries survey vessel based in Oregon, where she worked on fish and marine mammal studies and other marine science projects.
NOAA is now preparing to commission its newest fisheries vessel, the Reuben Lasker, and Ensign Friedlander was honored as the only member of her Merchant Marine Academy class to be selected as a “plank owner,” the term used for those assigned as a new ship’s very first crew. She’s now spending long days prepping the ship for transit to San Diego later this year and training to become its medical and environmental compliance officer. She’ll spend two years at sea, followed by a three-year assignment on land, perhaps at one of NOAA’s regional labs, before repeating the process.
“The best part is that it’s a diverse career, working in different places all the time, meeting different scientists, and learning something new every day,” she said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to most.”