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Fall Quarter Graduate’s Research Recognized by Navy Oceanographer

Meteorology and oceanography graduate Lt. Cmdr. Kate Hermsdorfer’s research into improving Wave Glider unmanned surface vehicle weather sensors for naval applications was recognized for excellence by Oceanographer of the Navy Rear Adm. Jonathan White. Following graduation, Hermsdorfer’s next assignment takes her just down the road to nearby Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center.

Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) student Lt. Cmdr. Kathryn “Kate” Hermsdorfer, graduating this Fall Quarter in the university’s Meteorology and Physical Oceanography curricula (METOC), was recently recognized for academic excellence by Oceanographer of the Navy, Rear Adm. Jonathan W. White, for work that she is conducting at NPS on unmanned vehicles.

“I am working with the Sensor Hosting Autonomous Remote Craft (SHARC) Wave Glider,” said Hermsdorfer.

The SHARC Wave Glider, created by Liquid Robotics, is an unmanned watercraft powered by the energy generated through the natural swelling of waves on the ocean’s surface. These craft can be deployed for long periods of time, and are equipped with a variety of sensors and communications packages that allow operators to monitor their progress as they propel across the sea gathering data, which is wirelessly transmitted to control centers on the coast.

The SHARC Wave Glider is interesting to Navy meteorologists because of its persistence, and resilience. It can operate in hurricane conditions, and unlike other commercial buoy systems, it can be remotely moved from one area of interest to another and remain on the water for long periods of time.

“We are excited with this particular Wave Glider, because we have the ability to steer the craft by controlling it through an iridium network,” Hermsdorfer explained.

Hermsdorfer worked with a small team of engineers and meteorologists to evaluate the SHARC’s sensing capabilities and then to develop a sensor better suited to naval meteorological operations.

“SHARC comes with a weather sensor, my first step was to evaluate the commercial sensor and the data it collects. We then developed and integrated a suite of off-the-shelf sensors that better suit our needs,” said Hermsdorfer. “I worked primarily on evaluating the sensors, while the team focused on the mechanics of incorporating the off-the-shelf sensors to the craft.”

Hermsdorfer’s work also caught the attention of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR). SPAWAR offered Hermsdorfer a fellowship and a $10,000 grant to further her research in conjunction with a SPAWAR mentor.

“[The fellowship] really serves two purposes … It feeds my research and it gives me a better understanding of SPAWAR so that I can better support things that they are looking at as well,” said Hermsdorfer.

Hermsdorfer will continue to rely upon the lessons she learned at NPS as she branches out and applies her graduate education to naval challenges.

“NPS has been invaluable … One of the things that everyone says, but you do not really appreciate until you go through the process, is that NPS helps you to develop a problem-solving thought process,” stressed Hermsdorfer. “By conducting my research and working my experiments, I have been able to develop a set of problem-solving skills that I will rely upon in the future.”

But Hermsdorfer will need more than just problem solving to be succesful in the academically-challenging worlds of meteorology and oceanography. She will need to draw upon her course work and the relationships that she has developed within the METOC community.

"I earned a master’s in meteorology and oceanography, the specific subject matter of my degree is directly applicable to what I will be doing at my next and future duty stations,” said Hermsdorfer “From now on out, I will be working in the meteorology and oceanography fields and applying this knowledge directly.”

Hermsdorfer will not have far to travel after graduation to put her education to the test. She has been assigned to serve as the operations officer at Monterey’s Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC) located just a short drive from the NPS campus.

“FNMOC does numerical forecasting, and I took both forecasting and numerical modeling courses here at NPS,” noted Hermsdorfer. “When you are able to tie subjects like these to the operational requirements demanded by your profession, you can really see how an NPS degree is critical.”

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