NOAA Ocean Exploration Explorer-in-Training Program

The 2024 Explorer-in-Training application is now closed! We received a record 930 applications. The process of going through the applications has begun. Check back next winter for the 2025 internships, and the best of luck to all applicants!


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.

three women in blue jumpsuits filtering water samples

Explorers-in-Training Rebecca Ruiz, Rose Leeger, and Ranna Zahabi filter water samples for environmental DNA collection during the Seascape Alaska 2: Aleutians Deepwater Mapping expedition. Image courtesy of NOAA Ocean Exploration, Seascape Alaska.

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


3 student interns onboard the ship, 1 intern collecting data in the control room

[Left] Explorers-in-Training Cameron Kuhle, Dana Carris, and Brett Woodworth onboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. [Right] Explorer-in-Training Ingrid Martinson participates in mapping data collection in the control room aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. Images courtesy of NOAA Ocean Exploration, Seascape Alaska.

Since 2009, NOAA Ocean Exploration and CPAESS/UCAR have hosted over 170 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 2024, both 10-week summer internships and 2 to 4-week expedition-based opportunities will be available.

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 2024 themes include:

  • Ocean Mapping (offshore, expedition-based, 2 to 4-week internship): With less than 25% of our world ocean’s seafloor mapped to modern standards, seafloor mapping is a national and international priority. Contributing to seafloor mapping efforts on 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. As part of the team conducting mapping operations, Explorers-in-Training will be directly responsible for making sure that incoming data accurately represents the true seafloor. This includes monitoring data acquisition, defining instrument and sound speed processing settings, and cleaning raw data with support from experienced ocean mappers. Beyond seafloor mapping, Explorers-in-Training will also gain tangible skills in the use of geographic information system (GIS) software and data management, as well as learning what it’s like to live aboard a research vessel for multiple weeks out at sea and work with a team of colleagues from all different backgrounds. Applicants for this opportunity should have a strong interest in oceanography, GIS, and/or ocean mapping. The 2024 field season will take place in the central Pacific Ocean and will require travel to Hawai‘i, USA.
  • Exploration Education, Media, and Science Communication: NOAA Ocean Exploration strives to engage stakeholders and improve ocean literacy of learners of all ages through outreach activities and 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 project available for Summer 2024 in this internship theme:
  • Online science communication (hybrid, remote shore-based and at-sea, 10-week summer internship): This hybrid, shore-based and at-sea internship is for an intern to develop web and social media content on ocean exploration topics. The intern will spend a period of time working remotely shoreside to develop content such as ocean facts or exploration tool descriptions while learning basic web content development processes and styles. The intern will then join a mapping expedition in the Pacific Ocean on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to develop further website content (e.g., personal reflection logs, ocean facts, and blogs) and social media posts to highlight ocean mapping operations. Prospective interns should have a background in or be interested in science communication and/or writing and have a foundational understanding of marine science concepts. The 2024 field season will take place in the central Pacific Ocean and will require travel to Hawai‘i, USA.
  • Ocean Exploration Science & Technology (shore-based, 10-week 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 deepwater areas and more effectively target future research efforts. Explorers-in-Training will gain understanding of ocean exploration technologies and tangible skills in the application of these technologies to the office’s scientific priorities. There are three projects available for Summer 2024 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 dives aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. The student will work with NOAA Ocean Exploration marine archaeologists to better understand these significant historical sites and write National Register of Historic Places eligibility determinations. Using existing NOAA Ocean Exploration data, the student will also lead the archaeological analysis and possible peer-reviewed publication of a previously-investigated underwater cultural heritage site. Prospective interns should have a background or interest in learning about underwater cultural heritage, maritime archaeology, anthropology, and/or maritime heritage.
  • Photogrammetry data processing and historic preservation (shore-based, remote, 10-week spring internship, start date: March 1; this opportunity is only open to graduate students or individuals that recently completed graduate school): This opportunity is for a graduate student to help with photogrammetry processing for Ocean Exploration Trust expedition NA154: Ala ʻAumoana Kai Uli in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, funded by NOAA Ocean Exploration. The student will need to be familiar with and have access to hardware and Agisoft Metashape software capable of generating photo models that will aid archaeologists, educators, and communicators. The photo models will be incorporated into the beginning stages of NOAA Ocean Exploration’s digital, virtual collection of photo models from underwater cultural heritage-focused remotely operated vehicle dives of the past. This position will also contribute to National Register of Historic Places nominating efforts for sites documented during NA154. Prospective interns should have a background or interest in learning about underwater cultural heritage, photogrammetry, historic preservation, maritime archaeology, anthropology, and/or maritime heritage.
  • Emerging technologies in the deep ocean (shore-based, 10-week summer internship, location: Metropolitan Washington, D.C. area): The following opportunity is for an undergraduate or graduate student to learn and contribute to NOAA Ocean Exploration’s ‘Omics priorities. Through this opportunity, the student will learn laboratory techniques to extract environmental DNA (eDNA) samples for sequencing. eDNA samples are routinely collected on the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and are processed for sequencing at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). Under supervision and guidance at NMNH, the student will contribute genetic sample processing through eDNA extraction and amplicon sequencing preparation. There will also be opportunity for the student to contribute to the development of the NOAA Ocean Exploration eDNA sampling protocol. Some experience in eDNA processing or analysis is preferred, but not required.


Eligibility & Application Requirements

The 2024 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 who 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: science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) 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 opportunities. You may only apply to one internship program (i.e., any one of the 10-week internships or the 2 to 4-week ocean mapping internship). 

  • Submission of online application form
  • Required short answer responses to each of the following prompts:
    1. What attracts you to ocean exploration? (maximum 250 words)
    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)
    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)
  • 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.

Submit 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 to 4-week expedition-based opportunities will be accepted on a rolling basis, with a priority deadline of January 31, 2024. After this priority deadline, applications will still be accepted until all slots are filled for the 2024 field season. Please note: If you have indicated availability for later in the year, you may not hear back from our office regarding your application status until after April 2024.

Applications for the 10-week shore-based opportunities will be accepted until January 31, 2024.

We receive a large number of applications for our opportunities each year. Please consider the email copy of your Google Form application as your confirmation of receipt.


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.