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Spring 2015
Andy Reynaga
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Andrew Reynaga diving.
Andy Reynaga
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Andrew Reynaga aboard the USCGC Eagle

Ensign Andrew Reynaga

California Native Adjusting to Life in New England

Growing up in the desert of Los Angeles and spending some years in Hawaii did not prepare Andy Reynaga for snow, or for the unusually cold temperatures experienced this past winter on Cape Cod. After reporting for NOAA Corps duty at the Woods Hole Laboratory of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) on December 15, 2014, he has been busy adjusting to a new home, New England weather, and a new position.

Reynaga is the new Junior Officer in Charge (JOIC) on the 72-foot R/V Gloria Michelle. He is working with Captain and Officer in Charge Doug Pawlishen, the former JOIC who assumed command from LT. Anna Liza-Villard-Howe on December 17, 2014. In early January, Villard-Howe moved on to a new assignment as Assistant School Chief, NOAA Corps Officer Training Center at the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Andrew Reynaga attended Sonora High School in North Orange County, CA. A high school SCUBA program led to his decision to pursue a career in marine research. He enrolled at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2001 focused on invertebrates and algae within the kelp forest ecosystems, and becoming an American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) scientific diver. Reynaga received a B.S. degree in marine biology from UC Santa Cruz in 2005.

He spent five years managing the boating and diving operations for a research group at the Long Marine Laboratory at UC Santa Cruz, on the edge of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The group monitored a section of California's kelp forest ecosystem to provide information to policymakers, scientists, and the public. During time off in the winter he worked as a marine science educator aboard two ships operating off Catalina Island and Hawaii. He also spent time as a diver on marine debris mitigation along the Northwestern Hawaiian islands.

While at the Long Marine Lab a NOAA Corp recruiter reached out to his project leader looking for potential candidates. "Even after spending many nights aboard a NOAA Sanctuary boat and working in tandem with NOAA on several projects, I had no idea the NOAA Corps existed until the recruiter came," Reynaga said. "Looking to spend less time in the water and more time in the wheelhouse, I applied almost immediately."

Reynaga began training in August 2012 at the NOAA Corps Officer Training Center as a member of Basic Officer Training Class 120, the first group of officer candidates to train at the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT.

His first assignment after the Basic Officer Training Class was the 224-foot NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai, based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and diving for various coral reef projects around the tropical Pacific. "Every morning we would launch five small boats and recover them after their divers had finished for the day. During my two years, we visited over two dozen small islands in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and the main Hawaiian Islands." There were many memorable aspects to the assignment, from the ship's crew and command to seeing islands he had not seen before, and the chance to spend time on Midway Island.

The decision to come to Woods Hole for his next assignment was all about the boat. He holds a US Coast Guard 100 Ton Near Coastal Master's License with an STCW endorsement and various other boating certifications necessary for dive missions within NOAA and university research. With a background working on small boats between 17 and 35 feet and on a much larger vessel with the Hi'ialaka, Reynaga felt a tour on the Gloria Michelle was a great opportunity to learn the systems and maneuverability of a size class in between the two, and new to him.

Since arriving he has been kept busy learning about the Gloria Michelle and preparing for its first major cruise, the annual three-week spring groundfish survey in state waters for the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. Major repairs have been made over the winter and spring aboard the Gloria Michelle, including replacement of the marine sanitation device, installation of a new marine head, and an engine rebuild. Installation of a generator and navigation equipment, metalwork on the rails and mast supports, fuel tank weld repairs, and reorganization of the machine shop, were among other items on the work list.

Despite the long list of repairs, it all came together as the ship departed May 3 to start the 2015 operating season. "We have put a lot of hard work and long hours into getting the boat prepared," he said. "Now I'd like to see a season with many successes and few surprises." One surprise occurred May 18, when a coolant hose had to be replaced. The ship returned to Woods Hole, made the repairs, and headed back out on May 19 to finish the remaining stations.

When not at work, Reynaga enjoys spending time with his wife Jennifer and 11-year-old son Branden. Many weekends, and many more to come in the months ahead, have been spent exploring New England. Visiting museums and national parks are family favorites. He also enjoys bowling, watching movies, playing basketball, and getting involved in wood projects. Parents hope to visit this summer, and with one brother and his wife's two sisters and three brothers, lots of family visits are in store.

"New England showed us our first real winter, but now that the weather is warmer we look forward to doing some kayaking and canoeing," he said of his family's first six months here. "So far New England has proven to be a welcomed change from our lives on the West Coast. The history in the area is remarkable. Now that we are acclimated, or at least now that the weather is warmer, it is beginning to feel like home."
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