MTS Executive Director Column: April 2020

April 21, 2020

Getting Back Home

Kathleen Herndon, MTS Executive Director

– As many of us hunker down in an effort to keep ourselves and those we love safe from the COVID-19 pandemic, the days can begin to blend together. Many of us feel strangely adrift in these doldrums, cut off from our professional and personal communities, and – at times – paralyzed by the uncertainty of it all.

Reflecting on this situation, I was reminded of the time I was aboard a Jon Boat navigating a portion of the Wicomico River off Virginia’s Northern Neck. Through a series of unfortunate events, my party and I found ourselves lost in an unfamiliar part of the river. The Wicomico dips in and out of creeks, vacation homes and piers dotting their banks. My immediate instinct was to take out my phone and open Google maps hoping that technology would set us back on course. Perhaps a decade later, the app would have been able to help, but at the time, it gave us only one instruction: “Proceed to land.” Unable to dock on a stranger’s pier, we drifted in the river for hours, the sun dropping low, and the landmarks becoming fuzzier in the twilight. Shortly before nightfall, we recognized the buoy that marked the route home, and came safely to shore. As we docked, the motor sputtered; we had run out of gas and drifted to the pier. Today, we are all in an unfamiliar part of the river, the twilight creeping in. The uncertainty of it all may give way to despair. But with patience and a little luck, we’ll have enough gas to get back home. 

At this moment, MTS is poised on our backfoot, ready to move once the winds have shifted in our favor. In the meantime, we are rising to the challenge and moving ahead with new initiatives of interest to our diverse and dynamic constituency. We are working to fill the gap created by a dearth of planned conferences with a number of timely webinars. Just a few of the event that we are working include “Applications of Bioluminescence in Marine Technology” featuring NOAA explorer Dr. Edie Widder; a virtual event for to support and provide professional guidance for graduating students featuring a panel of renowned experts; and an extended, multi-tiered webinar dedicated to an issue of key importance to our community – the industry role in building a seamless digital bathymetric map portraying of the world ocean by the year 2030.


  • We are on track to share a revised and updated MTS mission statement
  • We have received more than 100 applications for our ROV and MTS scholarships
  • We are actively soliciting nominations for MTS awards and fellows
  • We are working to improve MTS’s web presence by adding an interactive page illustrating the rich diversity and applications of marine technology 
  • We have added, Eddies, which is highly focused on emerging marine technologies as well as scientific and industry advances and accomplishments to our suite of publications
  • To build our virtual community, we are adding new, relevant content to our social channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) on a daily basis

The marine environment can be tumultuous and unpredictable. As we continue to find our way through these unprecedented times, rest assured that MTS will take a cue from those who go out in ships into uncertain seas – we will do our utmost to prepare for the unexpected, to build contingency plans for problems we see on the horizon, and take action to ensure that we all arrive safely at our home ports of call.

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