Tag Archives: Oceanographers

Little eco-gestures

It has been super long time since I’ve written a post in my blog. It has been a crazy summer for me: hen-do party in Madrid (yes, scientists also party hard J), University friend’s wedding in Puerto Real (where I was first made!), preparation for cruise (not only normal packing preparation but also getting catamaran and buoy ready for the first ever real deployment), visitors at home for a week, cruise in the Baltic Sea for four weeks, holidays in Ibiza for ten days, SOLAS conference in Kiel for a week (where I co-chaired my first discussion session). I can write a post for each of this points (I will definitely do for the Baltic Sea cruise) but today I want to tell you about something different.

Summer holidays in Ibiza

Summer holidays in Ibiza

Patri hen do in Madrid :)

Patri hen do in Madrid 🙂

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Beautiful wedding in Puerto Real

Poster presentation in SOLAS conference in Kiel

Poster presentation in SOLAS conference in Kiel

Mud walk :)

Mud walk 🙂

By now all the readers of this post know I work with CO2 in the ocean. During more than 11 years I have been actively working on this, I am often asked the question/comment along these lines; “you study CO2 but you cruise the Polar oceans” or “a lot of CO2 problem but you go to a conference in Hawaii”. Although cruises are still necessary to understand the complexity of our ocean, the oceanography community is investing a lot more effort in the “environmental friendly” platform like Argo buoys, fixed platforms with automatic sensors, gliders… Also it is also necessary to meet with your fellows in conference for networking, plan future research… However, more and more video-calls and conferences are used to discuss plans and papers.

But today’s post is about the personal little actions one can do to contribute less to the carbon budget. Of course you don’t need to be a carbon expert to do that but for me it makes more sense to be as consistent as possible with my life. I have a car and a bike and I try to cycle four days per week to work (believe me it is not always easy in North-Germany for a Mediterranean island girl). The fifth day I use the car because I go from work directly to a German course with my husband. We don’t use plastic bags for shopping and we avoid buying products with lots of packing (my friends, bananas have the most clever natural way of packing themselves, they don’t need an extra packing!). I do not use disposal tampons or slips but silicone cup and clothes washable slips (also these super white products are not really healthy). I always used alum deodorant, clothes tables napkins..

I don’t buy a lot of clothes, with travelling I learn we really don’t need that much to live comfortably. I admit I’m a fan of the charity shop (my angry aunties say I wear death’s clothes), where you give a second chance to a lot of things that otherwise would be waste. I had strange conversation with the cell phone customer service department who tried to reward me with a new cellphone because I’ve been such a loyal and good costumer: “No, I don’t want a new phone, mine is working fine” and the lady repeated again and again with surprise “but madam, it is free, you don’t even need to pay the delivery service”.

Sure I miss a lot of other little gesture one might do to reduce the impact of CO2 footprint. What are yours?

THE BUOY IS FLOATING!!

After 5 months from the start of my new job in Germany, we had our first sea trial of the buoy we are building to measure CO2 flux. The whole process was really quick, mostly because of the great job of the workshop folks; if it was me alone, I would still be trying to figure out how to put two aluminum sticks together 🙂 So that’s a good example how oceanography is a team game.

So everything starts when I learnt that one main task in my new contract is to help build this buoy. As always, first doubts of “Will I be able to do that?” now more emphasis with my less than beginner German. But it turns out that language was not a problem: a little bit of German, a little bit of English and A LOT of WILLING to communicate with each other.

Every visit to the workshop was full of excitement: “What am I going to find new?” I was in beginning to see a little baby growing :). One day I arrived at the workshop thinking it will be one short visit to discuss one small item but I spent almost all my working day with them… that was serious! They want it done soon and when they have the time for you, you don’t waste the opportunity.

A cold morning in January we went, buoy up to a trolley, buoy up to a crane, buoy down to the sea!!

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OMG just before that, all the doubts again: did I close the sensor properly? Have I forget some connection? Was the time configuration right? Will it float?

It turns out to be a success, not only the buoy floats but it also measures what it is supposed to measure 🙂 . So next step is to build an arm to move an instrument that measures current in and out of the buoy, attached some temperature sensors and GPS. By April we hope to be doing our first real measuring day, you will hear details soon 🙂

I SURVIVE 5 WEEKS WITHOUT SEA (A RECORD FOR ME!!)

It’s been a while since I have written in the blog but I have a good excuse, I was in a 4 weeks experiment in a circular wind tunnel in Heidelberg. 4 weeks plus preparation and installation of all the equipment plus take everything back to our home lab means A LOT OF WORK!! Some of you may not know where Heidelberg is (I didn’t the first time I heard about this experiment). Here is a map of all the places I have been during this adventure or I talk about in the post: mapHDhttps://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zR6f-Im6yd2U.kQUx9OZrrsbA

So, the second obvious question is “Why an oceanographer works during more than 5 weeks in a place 500 km away from the nearest sea water?” Not only that but also you’ll be surprise to know that we actually work with seawater! It is a big interdisciplinary project call SOPRAN (http://sopran.pangaea.de/). They collected water in the middle of the North Atlantic from a research vessel, transport until Kiel where they transfer to a track (whose next transport after our seawater was gums from bear gums, like haribo, so if you taste some salt in the last sweat, do not be surprise, hahahaha). So, that’s the explanation of how the water arrive to Heidelberg or the so call “Heidelberg ocean”. So in theory, I haven’t been without sea the whole time

Next obvious question, why so many bothering to bring water to Heidelberg? So at University there, they have a circular wind tunnel facility. That’s a 10 m diameter ring that you can fill with 1 m water (that means 18 m3 of water, 18000 L; that means if you have a big bath you can fill your bath ten times with this water!!). So this experiment was the first time they fill the facility with seawater, before they only use tap water or destilled water… Of course, seawater behaves different that freshwater so that makes this experiment so important. Ok Mariana, ok… a lot of blablabla but you haven’t explained yet why this is important.

So what we were trying to quantify is the flux between the water and the air of different gases and how this flux is affected with different factors. Some of the readers will get lost with this explanation but I have a good example everyone will understand. Imagine you are in a party with two rooms separated with a door. Originally all the people are in the first room but then more and more people arrive so people start to occupy the second room. Then you have more or less the same number of persons in both rooms, but this doesn’t mean people don’t move, you can see a friend in the other room or a plate of biscuits you like. Sometime the door could be lock or really heavy so really difficult to open and go through. Some other time the door can just blow out because of a lot of wind. So the two rooms in our “party” are the water and the air inside the tunnel and the door is the interface, the surface that separates them. This door (interface) can be heavier or not depending on the wind speed, the waves, the surfactants… so some people (gasses in the tunnel) may fill more comfortable in a more empty room or some prefer the warm to be with a lot of people (depending on their solubility and the temperature in the water and in the air).

I hope my example of the party help you understand the beauty of the air-sea interactions. Of course real live is much more complicate, there are gasses (and people) who doesn’t like others, there’s people who combine closely with other people…

We spent long hours in the lab (some days more than 16!!) but I always try to find some time to explore the surrounding area. So Heidelberg is a really nice and lively city. We also visit the Black Forest and Bern during different free weekends.

Overall, the experience was really good, I met a lot of nice people and we have a lot of interesting data (that will keep me really busy in the next months!!) but I have to admit that oceanography cruises are more fun. First, you don’t have to worry about the logistics of food, shop and accommodation (after 16 hours work, the only thing you don’t want to do is cook dinner!). Secondly, there’s no call to see polar bears, penguins, whales or albatross from your cabin window. All you see is workers in a new building (and that does not change everyday :))

To travel without money, sailor (or scientist)

There have been few weeks I haven’t upload a map in the blog so this week I thought I will talk about conferences, or “scientific travel”. These are different from project meetings (see post “What oceanographers do”), not all the people work in the same project. Some conferences host a small number of scientist and some are huge (the biggest I have been was this year in Hawaii and we were just under 5600!!). Some are really specific (for example, focus on calculation of a constant the control air-water interchanges) and some are really general (Ocean Science Meeting: http://www.sgmeet.com/osm2014/).

I have to admit that (mostly during my PhD) the decision to go or not to a conference was more dependent upon where the conferences were held than on the scientific content. There is a phrase in Spanish that says “para viajar sin dinero, marinero” that means “to travel without money you should become a sailor” so we have to add scientist to sailor. Well, at least with less money, so what I normally do is stay some days before or after the conference visiting around. I convince myself that it is good for my CO2 foot-print, it’s not worth travelling to the other end of the word just to be inside a dark room or conference building. The last international conferences I attended, I invited my dad to join me so we could enjoy holidays together, otherwise it would be really difficult to organize. He is my best judge when I do my presentation, even if he has no idea of English.

European Conferences

European Conferences

In total I have been to 15 different cities because of conferences (some cities, like Gran Canaria I have been twice). There are some conferences that you are unable to attend but some colleague can. So, you send your poster with him/her or he/she presents a work you have done together. Even if they are in my CV, I will not put these on the map because I haven’t been there physically.

Non European Conferences

Non European Conferences

One big part of what we do during a conference is similar to project meetings: room/coffee/room. Another important part of the meeting is poster sessions. When you have a poster, you arrive with your big printed poster; not all the people you see in the airport with poster tubes are architects. Although lately some conferences offer you the opportunity to print on site or you can print in textile so you transport your poster like your t-shirts. Then you located the spot you have been assigned to display your poster and in the time you’ve been allocated, you stand in front of your poster hoping someone will stop by and discuss your work. Most of the time you have really nice discussions with other people, because the clock is not pushing against you like in a presentation and you are normally more relaxed with time to talk one-one than in front of an audience (except if this one is a big fish, then your heart rate also speeds).

Finally, another important thing to do during conference is networking: you try and talk with people in whose work you are interested (and match a face with a famous name you have been reading a lot!). Or because you are interested in working with them or have been reviewing some of their work… If this talking can be with a beer (or two) and as an early career move you manage to impress this person that they remember your face for the next conference, you have been successful (or they remember your name, that will be even more of a success).

CRUISES AND HORSES DRUGS

As I said in the last post, one of the things oceanographers do is going to sea on research cruises. In the maps you can see the ports I have been, either to start, finish or just calling in. In total, there are 16 cities (some of them in different cruises, some of them last several days and some of them only a few hours). Overall, I have been 227 days at sea (that means, almost 8 month of my life!).

Every cruise is different, although they have things in common:

–          They always start after two or three days of complete chaos in the harbour; unpacking and setting up the equipment in the labs on board. If you are fortunate with the equipment and the weather, this chaos will decrease and you will have a pleasant cruise (unfortunately, this does not happen too often, and you normally deal with unimaginable problems of all types).

–          You disconnect from real life: forget about money, about cell phone, about checking email, Facebook, twitter… every two minutes. At the beginning it is hard but then, believe it or not, it’s RELAXING!!

–          You are in a limited space for 24/7, with a completely different routine from normal life. Thus, special relationships are created between people on board. They are not friends (normally) but they become friends with whom you share more than with normal land friends; they are not family but they became part of your family during these days (and in some occasion, for the rest of your life because many oceanography couples begin their relationship during cruises, including mine!)

–          I always get seasick at least once during the cruise. It has improved over the years but I think it will never go away. On my first cruise, I was so bad the crew gave me an anti-seasickness suppository and I used it without thinking anything against it (I think they were military horse drugs because it worked quickly and miraculously. I still have the little box at my dad’s as a souvenir). On the other hand, the last one, in the middle of the Southern Ocean, my day of seasickness was a mixture of hangover and bad mood.

 

On the other hand, each cruise is different, a complete “Big brother season”:

–          There are one week cruises and there are looooooooooong cruises.

–          There are open ocean cruises and there are coastal cruises. In open ocean, you are lucky if you are able to see land in the middle of the cruise. This much-deserved stop comes as you step on land and feel “land-sick”. You see different faces to the ones you’ve been seeing for weeks. Along the coast, (like coastal fisheries) you normally go to harbour every night, although you’ve been working non-stop the whole day.

–          There are dry cruises and there are cruises with different bars on board. When you disembark from a dry cruise, you feel completely detoxed but the first instinct you have is to look for a beer!

–          Normally in cruises you work in shift: some are 4 hours on- 8 hours off (so you can have a “baby” shift from 8 to 12 (am and pm) or you can have the “dog” shift from 4 to 8 (am and pm); some are 12 hours on- 12 hours out. So, at the end of a cruise, a part of you has to adapt to normal life again, taking care about purse and calls, sometimes you feel a kind of rare jetlag.

Cities I visited during cruises

Cities I visited during cruises

What oceanographers do on a day-to-day basis?

One thing I most like of my job is that it has a lot of different task for example:

  • Conferences
  • Meetings (with the boss, with students, with colleagues, with people in the same project…)
  • Cruises
  • Courses
  • Lab work
  • Data analysis and treatment
  • Writing
  • Revise (your own work and other works)
  • Apply for new jobs, new fellowships, new grants…

The problem is that this variety doesn’t happen every week. When I am on a cruise, I am on the cruise for several weeks, 24/7 (and towards the end of the cruise I dream of being at my office desk and my sofa). When I am finished with the cruise, I have a more normal office life (although occasionally, a lot longer hours), and after several months of being in front of the computer I dream on going to sea again!!

In my blog I would like to tell what I do during my days in England. Today I will start with an end of project meeting which happened this week.

My contract is associated to the Sea Surface Consortium (http://www.surfaceoa.org.uk/) of the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme (http://www.oceanacidification.org.uk/). That means, among other things, that one works and interacts with a lot of people from different institutes. Even in the internet era, all these people have to come together to present their results, discuss what to do with them, split tasks…

So for that reason, during the two years and almost a half that I have been working in this project, I have been to Exeter, St Andrews, Plymouth, London and Southampton. It’s a pity that because most of us are based in Southampton, we have repeated it for at least three meetings and I miss the opportunity to visit Cambridge or Obam.UKOA Cities

So we meet together and after the “hello, how have you been?” “Not too bad, thank you! And you?” we spend some hours in a room doing presentation (most of them prepared the night before in a rush and “saying oh my gosh where is this graph??!!”). Each of us talk around 10-15 minutes and then there is time for questions, comments, feedbacks. Then we break for coffee, tea and biscuits. And the chit-chat continuous: “how long is your contract for?” although some other conversations are more in detail. We reconvene and continue presenting and talking. After a couple of more hours, we stop for lunch. Then again inside the room/coffee/room and at the end, your head it’s so full of new information and new ideas of, try this, try that… that all you want it is a nice break. We have normally a group dinner in a pleasant restaurant. I believe science advance more with a beer in hand. These types of meetings are normally one day and a half or two. So the second day is where, having shown what we have done, we sit down and decide what is left to do and who (and when!) will do what. It is also the time to decide where and when to meet next.