RV Shearwater students and crew
Students, faculty and crew members who took part in the Shearwater's maiden voyage gave guests guided tours of the vessel at its dedication ceremony in Miami.

The R/V Shearwater, Duke Marine Lab’s new research, education, and outreach vessel, received an enthusiastic welcome after arriving in the port of Miami, at a special event honoring its launch. 

The state-of-the-art R/V Shearwater made its maiden research voyage, which was led by Zackary Johnson, associate professor of molecular biology in marine science. Johnson was joined by six Nicholas School students, and a crew of three that took a ten-day trip around South Florida, the Dry Tortugas and Gulf of Mexico.

The trip included sailing the open sea and visits to a handful of coastal ports. The students experienced a number of marine science learning opportunities like working in teams, data collection and sampling; tracking nutrients and currents; and measuring bacteria and phytoplankton.

Participating students: Stacy Chen, Brittany Pashkow, Waverly Reibel, Natalie Rodriguez, Audrey White, and Nicholas School Scholar Cameron Adams. All but Chen, an Environmental Science student, are studying Coastal and Environmental Management.

students in Dry Tortugas

We conducted valuable lab work, and the crew was instrumental in our learning—allowing us to take ownership of the science and giving us hands-on opportunities to deploy CTDs, steer the ship, and map out a route for our final project."

— Stacy Chen T'22


RV Shearwater with President Price - Miami FL
L to R: Marine Lab Director Andy Read, R/V Shearwater captain Matthew Dawson, Stanback Dean Toddi Steelman, Duke University President Vincent Price, Kevin McCarthy associate dean, development and alumni relations

Docked in Miami 

On hand to celebrate the R/V Shearwater, were Duke President Vincent Price, Nicholas School Stanback Dean Toddi Steelman, Marine Lab Director Andy Read, members of the Duke Alumni Association Executive Committee and the Nicholas School Board of Visitors, donors, friends, students, faculty, and staff. Nicholas Board of Visitors members Barbara and Neil Smit were acknowledged for their generous donation to fund the new marine operations dock at the Marine Lab that will berth the Shearwater.     

The celebration took place over lunch at American Airlines Arena, with Price, Steelman, and Read speaking about the success of Shearwater’s first research trip and how the vessel greatly enhances experiential learning. President Price praised the achievement and offered a toast by exclaiming, “Long may she sail!” 

Other event highlights included:

  • A presentation by Read about Shearwater’s advanced features and capabilities, and how the vessel will be used for leading-edge Duke Marine Lab research, hands-on education, and community outreach efforts.
  • Tours of the vessel, led by the crew and students who participated in the vessel’s first class and research trip.


I was exited to learn about Duke’s new research vessel. My marine lab experience was pivotal to my time at Duke and increased my commitment to preserving our oceans. What better way to inspire future generations of Duke students, than by learning at sea, alongside the dedicated faculty and scientists at the lab on the Shearwater.” 

— Joe Vitagliano, Nicholas Board of Visitors


RV Shearwater silhouette

Support Shearwater’s work

Field oceanographic research and education present unique opportunities to understand our environment.  Duke alumni who wish to invest in Shearwater’s contributions to environmental research, education, and outreach can do so through the “Get on Board” campaign. Ways to give include:

  • Naming gifts - Opportunities to name parts of Shearwater are still available.
  • Sponsorships - Fund a student, a research day at sea, or a multiday trip.

Learn more about supporting the R/V Shearwater by contacting Kevin McCarthy at kevin.p.mccarthy@duke.edu.