NOAA Ocean Exploration Explorer-in-Training Program

The Explorer-in-Training Program deadline has passed for the 2023 Summer Program! Check back at the end of 2023 for next summer's application information.


Ocean explorer logo

As part of its mission to train the next generation of ocean explorers, scientists, engineers, and communicators, NOAA Ocean Exploration hosts students in the Explorer-in-Training Program. These interns gain valuable, interdisciplinary experience in ocean exploration while collaborating on office projects and expeditions. Explorer-in-Training internships enable students to increase their competitiveness for educational and career opportunities in ocean-related fields.


Two students looking at computer monitors

Explorers-in-Training Kathrin Bayer and Daryin Medley process mapping data in the control room aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. Image courtesy Caitlin Bailey, GFOE.

NOAA Ocean Exploration is dedicated to exploring the unknown ocean, unlocking its potential through scientific discovery, technological advancements, and data delivery. By working closely with partners across public, private, and academic sectors, we are filling gaps in our basic understanding of the marine environment. This allows us, collectively, to protect ocean health, sustainably manage our marine resources, accelerate our national economy, better understand our changing environment, and enhance appreciation of the importance of the ocean in our everyday lives.

With priority placed on exploration of deep waters and the waters of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, NOAA Ocean Exploration applies the latest tools and technologies to explore previously unknown areas of the ocean, making discoveries of scientific, economic, and cultural value. By making collected data publicly available in increasingly innovative and accessible ways, we provide a unique and centralized national resource of critical ocean information. And, through live exploration video, online resources, training and educational opportunities, and public events, we share the excitement of ocean exploration with people around the world and inspire and engage the next generation of ocean scientists, engineers, and leaders.

A core part of the NOAA Ocean Exploration mission is to train the next generation of ocean explorers through internship and fellowship opportunities for students and early career professionals. One of the many ways that the office addresses this goal is through a partnership with the Cooperative Program for the Advancement of Earth System Science (CPAESS), a community program of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), to coordinate opportunities for students to gain valuable experience in ocean exploration.


About the Explorer-in-Training Program


Two photos: on left a student in front of monitors, and on right a student on the deck of a ship

[Left] Explorer-in-Training Henry Arndt works on multibeam sonar mapping data processing aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. Image courtesy of Caitlin Bailey, GFOE. [Right] Jennifer Clifton, Explorer-in-Training, reloads an expendable bathythermograph (XBT) to collect ocean temperature data. Image courtesy of  NOAA Ocean Exploration, EXPRESS: West Coast Mapping 2022.

Since 2009, NOAA Ocean Exploration and CPAESS/UCAR have hosted 195 Explorers-in-Training. The program equips participants with skills to meet the current and future demands of the ocean exploration workforce, providing meaningful experiential learning opportunities that support NOAA Ocean Exploration’s mission and inspire ocean literacy for the next generation. The program features two internship options: (a) 2 to 4-week expedition-based opportunities and (b) 10-week summertime opportunities. The 10-week internships give students an opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge through long-term projects supported by NOAA Ocean Exploration mentors. The 2 to 4-week expedition-based internships involve participation in specific NOAA Ocean Exploration-supported expeditions, giving participants the chance to contribute to mission efforts while gaining tangible skills that can benefit their future pursuits. For 2023, both 10-week summer internships and 2 to 4-week expedition-based opportunities are available for application. 

The Explorer-in-Training Program offers multiple internship themes to reflect NOAA Ocean Exploration’s diverse expertise, work products, and services. These themes are designed to be interdisciplinary and reflect the office’s main focus areas while providing training in critical ocean exploration mission fields. Available 2023 themes include:

  • Hydrography and Seafloor Mapping (offshore, expedition-based, 2-4 week internship): Mapping the seafloor via NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is an integral part of NOAA Ocean Exploration’s mission, providing critical bathymetric data needed to achieve a baseline understanding of previously unexplored areas. Participants will support mapping operations by collecting and processing these data with support from experienced mapping technicians. Beyond seafloor mapping,  these interns will also participate in water column and sub-seafloor mapping, and gain tangible skills in the use of geographic information system (GIS) software, and data management.


  • Exploration Education, Media, and Science Communication (shore-based, remote, 10-week summer internship): NOAA Ocean Exploration strives to engage stakeholders and improve ocean literacy of learners of all ages through educational programming. To achieve the mission of community-driven exploration, the office employs a suite of communication strategies and media tools that bring discoveries to the public. Interns will work on cross-disciplinary projects to gain experience in scientific communication, ocean education programming, and the use of multimedia products. There is one projet available for Summer 2023 in this internship theme:

    • To build upon previous work developing the “Deep Ocean Bites” video mini-series, that features “bite-sized” ocean facts using previously recorded footage of NOAA Ocean Exploration education team interviews with deep-sea scientists. Prospective interns should have basic skills in or comfort/familiarity with video editing and should have a foundational understanding of marine science concepts.
  • Ocean Exploration Science & Technology (shore-based, 10-week summer internships): Exploration often leads to discoveries that highlight areas, features, resources, and/or processes that are new to ocean science and need further study. To accomplish these discoveries, NOAA Ocean Exploration promotes the innovative use of existing technologies while investing in new technologies that will help to better understand deep-water areas and more effectively target future research efforts. Explorers-in-Training will gain understanding of ocean exploration technologies and tangible skills the application of these technologies to the office’s scientific priorities. There are two projects available for Summer 2023 in this internship theme:
    • Underwater cultural heritage and maritime archaeology (shore-based, remote, 10-week summer internship, this opportunity is only open to graduate students or individuals that recently completed graduate school): This opportunity is for an intern to engage and contribute to NOAA Ocean Exploration maritime archaeology activities and priorities. The intern will annotate past shipwreck video collected during remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, including recent discoveries like SS Bloody Marsh, the whaler Industry and others. The student will work with NOAA Ocean Exploration maritime archaeologists to better understand these significant historical sites. Prospective interns should have a background or interest in learning about underwater cultural heritage, maritime archaeology, anthropology, and/or maritime heritage. 
    • Emerging technologies in the deep ocean (shore-based, 10-week summer internship, location: Metropolitan Washington DC area): The intention of this student opportunity is to have an intern work jointly with NOAA Ocean Exploration and NOAA Fisheries National Systematics Laboratory (NSL) located at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington, D.C.  to process and analyze environmental DNA (eDNA) data in conjunction with imagery collected via a drop camera. These data were collected on an expedition in April 2022 from NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in an effort to explore areas of the deep-sea around Puerto Rico. The student will work with deep ocean and eDNA experts from the NSL and NMNH, as well as with NOAA Ocean Exploration data analysts. Prospective interns will have an opportunity to process and analyze these data and be the first to provide insights to the ocean-interested community on unexplored areas of the ocean. No experience necessary in eDNA processing or analysis.


Eligibility & Application Requirements

The 2023 Explorer-in-Training application is now open! Please see below for eligibility requirements and application instructions. 


  • U.S. citizenship
  • Currently enrolled students (undergraduate or graduate) or recent graduates whose completed their degree programs the previous year; must be enrolled in or have received a degree from an accredited academic institution 
  • Degree, major, or intent to major in a field relevant to NOAA Ocean Exploration’s mission; these can include, but are not limited to: STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, social sciences, communications, education, and/or ocean policy/management
  • Willingness to learn and follow NOAA Ocean Exploration’s office and shipboard standard operating procedures

Application Requirements

This year, the Explorer-in-Training Program will feature two internship options: (a) 2 to 4-week expedition-based opportunities and (b) 10-week summertime opportunities. Applicants may apply for both internship options via a single application form. 

  • Submission of online application form 
  • Short answer response to each of the following prompts:
    1. What attracts you to ocean exploration? (maximum 250 words; this question is required) 
    2. What are your expectations for an Explorer-in-Training internship? What skills and/or experience are you hoping to gain to advance your future career goals? (maximum 500 words; this question is required; if you are applying for both the 10-week summer internship and the 2-4 expedition-based hydrography/seafloor mapping opportunities, please address your expectations for both of those programs here)
    3. NOAA Ocean Exploration is committed to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Tell us about your journey and how you would like to contribute to NOAA Ocean Exploration's goal of creating a more diverse global pool of talent engaged in deep ocean exploration (maximum 500 words; this question is optional).
  • Current resume or curriculum vitae (Note: if you have never created a CV before, here is some guidance from the National Science Foundation)
  • Contact information for at least one academic (professor, advisor, teacher, etc.) and one character reference (community member, work supervisor, mentor, etc.). These references should be able to speak to your character and your professional and/or academic background.

Please ask your references for permission to include their information before final submission of your application. 

If you have any questions, need guidance, or experience technical difficulties, please contact NOAA Ocean Exploration’s Internship Program Coordinator at

Application Timelines

Applications for the 2-4 week expedition-based opportunities will be accepted on a rolling basis, with a priority deadline of January 31st, 2023. After this priority deadline, applications will still be accepted until all slots are filled for the 2023 field season. 

Applications for the 10-week shore-based opportunities will be accepted until January 31st, 2023. 

Additional Information


Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility 

The Explorer-in-Training Program strives to foster a safe and inclusive environment for all, viewing our unique differences not as a barrier, but as a necessity for progress toward our shared goals of exploration and discovery. NOAA Ocean Exploration seeks to involve participants from groups that are historically underrepresented in ocean exploration, including Black or African-American, Indigenous, Hispanic or Latino, female, first-generation college students, veterans, and participants with disabilities. The Explorer-in-Training Program welcomes participants of all sexual and gender identities, students who have experienced educational or economic disadvantages, and/or have circumstances that may complicate their professional development progress. To ensure sustainability of this commitment, we accept and value feedback from our interns and apply it to ongoing efforts to make Explorer-in-Training a model of excellence for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.