Photo Credit: Erin Ranney
This month is Hispanic Heritage month, and it provides an interesting moment to reflect on what it means to me to be a sea-going Latina in ocean exploration.
When I started working at sea seven years ago, I was the only female, let alone the only Latina, on an entire ROV engineering team. This sensation was not necessarily new to me, as this was a similar reality that I experienced throughout university up through my doctorate. However, this familiar sensation did not imply that there were no moments in which I felt isolated (which is only compounded when you factor in that I was in the middle of the ocean).
Luckily, I have been fortunate during my time at sea to be a part of ROV and engineering teams that have been very accepting, supportive, and open to change. Being a part of a supportive team makes a world of difference in shaping one’s sea-going experience. It is not uncommon to hear stories of “old boys clubs,” as ocean engineering groups that are dominated by white male figures are sometimes referred to.
But now, it feels like we are at a precipice. A new wave of ocean engineers and explorers has brought with it fresh new perspectives, backgrounds, and identities. I now have the distinct privilege of working with many incredible engineers, navigators, visionaries, and explorers of diverse backgrounds and identities, rejuvenating my spirits by seeing a more balanced representation in ocean exploration.
I feel encouraged to see how far we have come in the sea-going community in the past few years. There is much work left to do, and we must push for more balanced representation; however, the strides forward feel significant. It is my hope that by broadening participation coupled with increasing advocacy, more Latinas will see themselves reflected in the field of ocean exploration and join the new wave of sea-going engineers, scientists, seafarers, and explorers.
Photo Credit: Ed McNichol
Dr. Jessica Sandoval is the Systems R&D Lead Engineer for Ocean Discovery League and an accomplished ocean explorer, engineer, and scientist. She specializes in the fields of bioinspired robotics and deep-sea exploration technologies and is a contracted pilot of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs). In 2022, she was named by the Explorers Club as one of "50 Explorers to Know."