The Marine Technology Society Celebrates Excellence: Unveiling the 2023 Award Recipients

September 8, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC – The Marine Technology Society is proud to announce the recipients of its 2023 Awards. This year’s honorees encompass a wide spectrum of individuals, including students, young professionals, career professionals, and international programs, all of whom have demonstrated exceptional dedication to their respective fields. Their contributions span the realms of technological innovation, volunteer service, and mentorship.

 This year’s recipients include:

MTS Special Commendation Award

The MTS Special Commendation is presented to an individual or organization in recognition of outstanding accomplishments leading to significant advances in marine affairs and/or fulfilling the objectives and missions of the Marine Technology Society. Special MTS Commendations may include an outstanding individual, section, committee, and student section contributions to the Society. 

  • Recipient - Robert Heitsenrether: Robert has been a scientist with NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services for the past 15 years. Currently, he manages the Ocean System Test and Evaluation Program (OSTEP), which is headquartered in Chesapeake, Virginia. The program’s focus is design, development, and testing of new and improved oceanographic measurement systems and evaluation of new commercial-off-the-shelf sensors in support of evolving and maintaining NOAA’s extensive network of long term, real-time coastal ocean observing systems. Robert obtained a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from Stockton University, and a master’s degree in physical Ocean Science and Engineering from the University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies. Prior to joining NOAA, Robert spent time as a software engineer at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and then as a physical oceanographer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Robert has been a contributing member of the MTS Hampton Roads Section for the past 15 years.
  • Recipient - Dr. Swagata Sarkar: Dr. Sarkar secured All India first rank in Electronics and Communication from the Institution of Engineers, India. She has a PhD from Sathyabama Institute of Technology and Master of Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology. For the past ten years, her research has focused on product design and development and currently Dr. Sarkar is heading the department of Artificial Intelligence and Data Science of Sri Sairam Engineering College, Chennai. Dr. Sarkar helped to establish the Marine Technology Society Student Section at Sri Sairam Engineering College in August of 2022 and has since been encouraging students to engage in MTS activities.


MTS Fellow

Designation as a Marine Technology Society Fellow is one of the highest accolades a member can achieve. Since 1975, this title has been awarded to MTS members who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of the Society’s objectives and who have distinguished accomplishments and experience in their professional fields.

  • Recipient - S. Craig Cumbee: Mr. Cumbee earned his AAS degree in Marine Technology from Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1982 and has worked for the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) since 1980 while continuing his education in the Marine Sciences. Obtaining physical oceanography measurements has allowed him to work from P-3 Orion aircraft, Coast Guard vessels, university vessels, military, commercial, and foreign vessels, along with NAVOCEANO’s Pathfinder class of ships, and other Navy labs and oceanographic institutes. He has had the painful pleasure of working with single point current meters, tape storage and early Narrow Band Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers up to modern technology. Craig was involved in the early development of trawl resistant bottom mounts for ADCPs, other mooring techniques, and supporting AUV development tests. He’s utilized some ROVs, AUVs, dabbled in acoustic communications, and was an early adapter of Iridium Satellite communications. He is a Life Member of the Marine Technology Society and has served in every elected position at the local Section level over the years.
  • Recipient - Barbara Fletcher: Barbara served as an ocean engineer and project manager at the Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) for 35 years, specializing in unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) applications. Over the past 40 years, Barbara worked both in government and industry on vehicle systems for mine countermeasures, structure inspection, ship hull inspection, underwater security, and various scientific efforts. Barbara is the co-author of the US Navy’s UUV Master Plan, providing the guidelines for the Navy’s future use and development of unmanned undersea vehicles. From 2003 to 2009, Barbara served as the Project Manager for the NIWC portion of the Hybrid Remotely Operated Vehicles (HROV) project, working in league with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to build the 11,000 m capable Nereus vehicle. She has a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University and is a Registered Professional Engineering in the state of California. She is active in a range of professional societies, including being the Technical Program Chair for the MTS/IEEE OCEANS 13 and 21 conferences in San Diego, six years on the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society Advisory Committee, and past chair of the San Diego Section of MTS.
  • Recipient - Dr. Anthony Knap: Dr. Knap is the Director of the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group at Texas A&M University, Professor of Oceanography, Professor of Ocean Engineering, and the holder of the James Whatley Endowed Chair for Geosciences. His 45 years of Oceanographic research spans topics in organic geochemistry, atmosphere/ocean interactions, ocean acidification, and ocean genomics. He has applied state-of-the-art and cutting-edge technology to address the impact of a changing climate on human health and well-being. Under his leadership, the Group has expanded its reach and developed its operational ocean expertise in remote ocean observing using Wave and Buoyancy Gliders, Buoys and High Frequency Radars around the world, including in the Gulf of Mexico, Mediterranean, Caribbean and the North Pacific. Prior to coming to Texas, he was responsible for developing the Bermuda Institute for Biological Sciences (BIOS) from a small biological station into a renowned center of oceanographic research. In 1987, Knap and David Karl, collaborated to develop the iconic Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study and the Hawaiian Ocean Time-series . Both continue today with sustained funding from NSF.


Walter Munk Scholar Award

The Walter Munk Scholar Award is jointly sponsored by the Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans (WMFO) and the Marine Technology Society (MTS). The award is presented to a scholar currently enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate, or postdoctoral program and recognizes and outstanding contributions in areas fostered by the sponsoring organizations. Established in 2019, the Award honors Walter Munk’s legacy of daring exploration and discovery through ocean scientific and technology research, ocean education, or ocean conservation.

  • Recipient – Dr. Joshua Jones: Joshua Jones received a PhD in Oceanography in 2020 from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His research utilizes underwater sound recording and remote sensing to observe marine wildlife and habitats. Josh has worked extensively with Arctic local and indigenous resource managers, leading development of long-term international research partnerships that are community-based and guided principally by Inuit. Dr. Jones has provided expert testimony and technical reporting to the Nunavut Impact Review Board regarding mining-related shipping impacts on marine mammals in the north Baffin Island region. Josh Jones has co-developed a research internship and technology training program called SeaTech, building mentorship between Alaska Native youth and UC undergraduates and graduate students. He produced and directed the interactive exhibit program, Whales: Voices in the Sea, installed at nine US public aquariums and winning an American Association of Museums MUSE Award in 2005. Josh has been principal scientific advisor on numerous art-science collaborations, including contemporary composer Lei Liang’s Arctic Six Seasons. Representing groundbreaking new partnership in art and science, Six Seasons interweaves original music with three-dimensional spatialization of underwater recordings from the Alaskan Arctic. Josh is a career mariner, mooring technician, and a licensed Captain.


Compass Distinguished Achievement Award

The Compass Distinguished Achievement Award is presented to any individual who has sustained a career marked by achievements that have had significant impact on the fields of marine science and technology.

  • Recipient - Dr. Kakani Katija: Dr. Kakani Katija is a Principal Engineer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and has a PhD in Bioengineering from the California Institute of Technology. As lead of the Bioinspiration Lab, Kakani and her group investigates ways that imaging can enable observations of life in the ocean. By developing novel imaging and illumination tools (e.g., DeepPIV and EyeRIS), automating the classification of underwater visual data using artificial intelligence (FathomNet, Ocean Vision AI), and integrating algorithms on vehicles (ML-Tracking) for robotic vehicle missions (e.g. Mesobot, LRAUV) to consistently and persistently observe ocean life, their efforts will increase access to biology and related phenomena in the deep sea.


Compass Organizational Excellence Award

The Compass Organizational Excellence Award is presented to a company, government agency, program, or non-profit organization for outstanding contributions to the advancement of marine science and technology.

  • Recipient - Huntsman Marine Science Centre: The Huntsman Marine Science Centre was established in 1969 as an ocean focused not-for-profit and charity located in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada with a mission to deliver the highest quality marine education programs and collaborative research while encouraging sustainability of our ocean environment, resources, and economy. In doing so, Huntsman Marine has educated more than 75,000 students of all ages, welcomed more than 1,200,000 visitors to the Frundy Discovery Aquarium, and supported contribution of more than 500 peer-reviewed research publications over the 54 years of operation. Every year the Huntsman Marine Science Centre research team conducts nearly 75 studies, with more than half placed by innovative private sector Study Sponsors that often involve proprietary technology validation and regulatory dataset collection across the Centre’s four primary marine research fields of expertise. The Centre’s education programs provide awareness on a wide range of ocean focused topics for grade school exploration, high school career preparation in the ocean economy, intensive university field programs, and workforce development.


John P. Craven Mentor Award

The John P. Craven Mentor Award is presented to any established MTS Mentor invoking the long and impactful career of John Pina Craven, this award is conferred upon an MTS member who has demonstrated outstanding and sustained service to the field of marine technology through mentorship. 

  • Recipient: Dr. Grace Saba: Grace Saba is an Associate Professor at Rutgers University who leads a research group within the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences (DMCS) and serves as faculty in the Center for Ocean Observing Leadership (RUCOOL). She teaches multiple courses at Rutgers, and mentors the independent research of graduate and undergraduate students and post-docs. Her research group utilizes laboratory experiments, field research, and ocean observation to investigate how seawater conditions, including environmental stressors such as warming temperature and ocean acidification, affect the ecology, physiology, distribution, and phenology of coastal marine zooplankton and fishes. Grace co-founded the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Acidification Network (MACAN), serves on the MACAN Steering Committee and Science Working Group, and has been working with the State of New Jersey toward a developing Statewide Ocean Acidification Monitoring Network and more broadly their Ocean Acidification Action Plan. She co-leads the Ocean Health and Ecosystems Task Team for OceanGliders and serves as a member of the Habitat & Ecosystem Subcommittee for the Regional Wildlife Science Collaborative for Offshore Wind.


Ocean News and Technology Early Career Ocean Professional Award

The Ocean News and Technology Early Career Ocean Professional Award is presented to an individual within 10 years of their last degree or designation, who has shown leadership in MTS, and who works in a professional capacity in management, engineering or research and development in a marine technology field. 

  • Recipient - Cordielyn Goodrich: Cordie Goodrich is the Slocum Glider Technical Support and Field Operations Manager at Teledyne Webb Research. Cordie leads the Glider Support Team - providing customer training, testing new hardware and software, piloting, and supporting Slocum Glider users all over the world. Prior to joining the TWR team in 2020, Cordie worked at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences where she managed the Mid-Atlantic Glider Initiative and Collaboration (MAGIC) Lab. She received her Bachelor of Mathematics from Washington College and a master’s degree in marine studies from the University of Delaware, College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.


Captain Don Walsh Award for Ocean Exploration

Awarded jointly by the Marine Technology Society and the Society for Underwater Technology, this award recognizes outstanding, sustained, international contribution to the development, application, and propagation of marine technology toward the advancement of ocean exploration.

  • Recipient - Dr. Peter Guirguis: Dr. Peter Girguis’ prolific career is dedicated to increase understanding of the animals and microbes that thrive in the deep sea. His profound dedication lies in advancing deep-sea exploration to expand humanity’s understanding of the natural world. Colleagues have paid tribute to his leadership, attributing it to his capacity for expansive thinking in ocean science – considering what the field requires to flourish and identifying emerging scientific questions. His primary focus is to understand how marine organisms have adapted to their habitats and how they respond to a changing world. Within his research, his team made groundbreaking discoveries of previously unknown microbe communities that that ‘eat’ methane at unprecedented rates, keeping the greenhouse gas out of our atmosphere. His pioneering efforts continued with the development of innovative methods to grow the deep-sea microbes that are responsible to keeping methane out of the atmosphere.

“Marine technology underpins the economy and environment of our ocean planet. The individuals receiving these awards have made substantial contributions to the advancement and advocacy of ocean science and technology. They embody a diverse set of talents and inspire the entire marine technology community. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to them and welcome their ongoing achievements,” remarked Justin Manley, President of MTS.

Nominations for next year’s awards will be open in the beginning of 2024. For details regarding eligibility and nomination instructions, visit


Chelsea Bladow
Communications Manager | Marine Technology Society
[email protected] | (202) 827-7172 |

Share this post:

Comments on "The Marine Technology Society Celebrates Excellence: Unveiling the 2023 Award Recipients"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment