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Megan O'Neill, left, and Monica Winsborrow of the University of Tromso, Norway.
Courtesy photo
Megan O'Neill, left, and Monica Winsborrow of the University of Tromso, Norway.

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Teacher spends 20 days
in the Arctic Ocean

Fairhope woman one of 12 selected for National Science Foundation's Armada Project

Fairhope High School teacher Megan O'Neill was one of 12 teachers in the nation selected this year for the National Science Foundation's Armada Project.

O'Neill, the daughter of Carol and Frank O'Neill of Priceville, went to the Arctic Ocean north of Longyearbyen on Svalbard island. The Armada Project sent teachers to work in places like Antarctica, Alaska, the Pacific Ocean, Greenland and the Gulf of Mexico.

She worked aboard a ship with 21 scientists, consisting mostly of professors and doctoral students from the University of Barcelona in Spain, along with a few international students, several journalists and about 50 crew members.

The group did a 20-day research project at Longyearben, one of the northernmost cities on the earth, mapping the ocean's floor to better understand the effect of climate change in the frozen part of the world east of Greenland and north of Finland.

O'Neill posted a daily journal on the Armada Project's Web site so her students in Fairhope's Aquiscience program could monitor her travels and experiences. She answered e-mail questions from the students. She also took hundreds of photographs for a PowerPoint presentation that she will share at the school later this year.

As part of the research project, scientists took core samples from the ocean's floor from more than 1 mile deep. She said scientists will use the muddy ancient pieces from the deep to analyze climate conditions that existed during the late Pilocene Epoch several million years ago.

O'Neill is a fourth-generation teacher. After graduating from Auburn University with a degree in environmental science, she worked for environmental engineering firms in Birmingham and Pensacola, Fla., before starting her teaching career.

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