Chemical oceanography part 2: the importance of the team

by Sinhue Torres Valdes

Yesterday I talked a bit about what the work we do involves and today I’m going to tell you about the oxygen and nutrient chemistry team and how we work together.

When you assemble a team to go to sea you are not just looking for an extra pair of hands to help out with stuff, rather, you need extra brains; someone that can contribute with ideas, suggestions and loads of initiative. Above all, you need people good character, since doing the same thing for 12 hours (or more) every day for 6 to 7 weeks as tiredness accumulates can be tedious, so you have to find the spark every day to light the smile.

Having said that, I think I’m very lucky to work alongside great guys! With that many things to look after, several brains work better than only one.

After a week or so at sea, you can more or less assess everything that needs to be done and can thus decide how to best doing to make it more efficient and easier. Rather to having us all doing the same thing, we split tasks so that we all contribute but only one has control of each task.

Hannah (1st year PhD student), always ready with a smile and cool stories to tell, in addition to carrying out sampling and analyses, is in charge of looking after the oxygen data. Processing and assessing data is no easy task. Following analyses (which we all do), Hannah makes sure that all data is up to date and that numbers are of good quality, liaising with the physics team, keeping track of standardisations, corrections if need to be done. She works really hard and provides loads of ideas on how to process data more efficiently. This is her first time at sea and coming from a pure chemistry background, oceanography is relatively new to her, but boy! She is doing an amazing job!!! I hope she is enjoying the expedition and learning loads.

Carolyn (3rd year PhD student); she is faster than the speed of light! Man! I only need to say 3 or 4 words before she figures out what is it that I’m trying to say, what is it that needs to be done or what a problem may be. I have the impression that at some point I would only need to think about something and she will pick it up straight away. She is always on top of things, so there’s no need to explain what is it that we need to do at any given time. In addition to sampling, analysing, and working on her PhD thesis, she is (together with me) in charge of looking after the nutrients data. Again, this involves quality checks, assessing data and liaising with the physics team to further scrutinise the numbers we are producing (we are the first critics of our own work). She always provides ideas and suggestions which help things flow smoothly. Pretty much the same Hannah does with the oxygen data, we do with the nutrients. Hope Carolyn can learn something new out of this expedition too.

Mark; my buddy and colleague for the last 9 years! Somehow, this is the first ever time we get to go to sea together and it’s been great. Mark is an expert on pretty much everything! He has done, I believe 20 or so expeditions and knows lots of analytical techniques. On top of that, he is our expert on hazardous goods (aka, nasty chemicals that sometimes we need for analyses). Again, in addition of carrying out sampling and analyses, Mark is responsible for collecting and processing biological samples for colleagues at NOC and the University of Seville in Spain. Besides, he liaises with the ship’s officers to deal with the paper work needed when handling chemicals at sea (whether hazardous or not), so that these can be handled properly and that any waste resulting from the analyses is disposed of properly once back on land. He’s a really cool guy.

As for me, well, I guess I’m the boring guy, but with such a great team, I can even be funny at times. Work and life at sea is a lot easier and funky when you are surrounded by such great people! So, let’s keep on pushing the boundaries!

Oh dear! I missed my lunch again…..

Images: The JR302 nuts and oxy team, all by Sinhue Torres Valdes

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One thought on “Chemical oceanography part 2: the importance of the team

  1. Hey,
    I’m loving the blog, checking it every day. I find it really interesting to read about all the research that ye are doing. I’m not a science guy but My brother Gary is on the ship with ye, so I’ve really enjoy reading about the adventure ye have been having !!!

    P.S. tell him i’m loving the beard 🙂

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