Thursday, January 14, 2016

To descend

Who's ready for another traveling-scientist story? You are!

Cambridge by night
Friends, I come to you from Cambridge, Massachusetts, just a few minutes' drive away from the campus of Harvard University. I'm here with my Ph.D. supervisor, Craig, in order to attend a workshop called DESCEND-2. "Descend" is an acronym for something that I can't remember, but in essence, the workshop is a chance to discuss the future of deep submergence technologies in the United States. ROVs, AUVs, submersibles - anything that takes humans, remotely or in person, to the bottom of the sea.

As I understand it, the first DESCEND meeting took place in 1999, but obviously a lot has changed in deep-sea science since then. Alvin has been upgraded; Nereus was designed, built, and lost. The time is ripe for scientists, engineers, and other stakeholders in the deep sea to reconvene and discuss our research priorities, the anticipated challenges, and what technologies are necessary to move forward.

A break-out discussion on using deep submergence
technologies in benthic habitats.
The vast majority of my day was spent in the lecture halls and classrooms of Harvard Law School, where the DESCEND-2 organizers had secured space for us to meet. To be perfectly honest, friends, I started out the day feeling nervous and more than a little bit out of my league. I'm surrounded by experienced, high-powered scientists, and I'm pretty sure I'm the youngest one here. Nevertheless, I loosened up as the day went on and learned to value my own opinions. There were several senior scientists present that I've worked with on past cruises, so I took the opportunity to approach and converse with each of them. It was nice to have a few familiar faces in the crowd, and they each recognized me right away.

I'm happy to participate in DESCEND-2, even if I am the youngest one present, because it's a chance for me to become more integrated into the submergence community and take an active role in shaping American infrastructure for research. After all, I plan on sticking around in deep-sea science for a long time, so I might as well have a say. Here's to the future!

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