Ocean Sciences: part 2

Probably the most exciting part of my week at Ocean Sciences was getting invited to a press event. The American Geophysical Union, the ginormous professional society behind Ocean Sciences, organizes these roundtable discussions between certain scientists and reporters at every conference. Each scientist gets a few minutes to explain their research, and then the floor opens for anyone to ask questions. Usually, the moderator is the one who asks the most questions, but the goal is to keep the conversation flowing. The roundtables are recorded and posted online so anyone can watch them later.  A screenshot from the roundtable recording - here, I'm talking about a recent project in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to yours truly, panelists in my roundtable included Melanie Damor, an archaeologist with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and Nathan Figueredo, a student at Louisiana State University. Our research was very complementary, so it turned into a great discussion. If you'

Ocean Sciences

"You should go to Ocean Sciences" Giving my presentation. Photo by Johanna Weston. - my mentoring committee, every time we've met over the last 4 years I'm a small town girl. I don't do crowds. So when my mentoring committee pushed me to present at a conference with 5,000 participants, I pushed back. Not my speed, I told them.  Here's the thing: Ocean Sciences is a hub. It's not just other scientists who show up here; program officers from all the major funding agencies show up. Reporters. Publishers. People who I would be lucky to connect with.  So I came. I navigated the crowd. I gave my presentation - and guess what, I even got invited to participate in a press event. I attended town hall meetings with some of the major funding agencies. I connected with potential new colleagues, and I ran into multiple people who I hadn't seen in years. Yes, mentoring committee, you were right. I'm glad I came.  WHOI students and faculty at the Audubon Aquarium


My work station for the day (WHOI is closed for inclement weather). Right now, I am sitting cross-legged on a semi-circular orange armchair. Dark wood panels sandwich me on two walls, while the other two hold large glass windows to the outside world. It's getting white out there. Fat, wet flakes of snow started falling a few hours ago, and it shows no sign of stopping.  To my right, a four-log fire provides cozy, comforting heat to the dark-paneled den. My husband clacks on a keyboard behind me, and to my left, our overgrown floof of a dog naps on the floor. It is winter in New England.  If you asked me about coral reefs right now, I might not even know what you're talking about. As far as I'm concerned, the world is white and cold, like the ice planet Hoth. All I want in the world is my family and this fire. What are the tropics? From my orange armchair, the hot, humid latitudes feel a galaxy away.  Nevertheless, I was roused from my cozy winter stupor by an email today. A

Alvin, Please Deploy My Trap There

Guest blog post by postdoc Johanna Weston Today, I am coming to you from the Central East Pacific near 9°50’ North. I am  on board R/V Atlantis  along the East Pacific Rise as part of an NSF-funded cruise to study the biodiversity of inactive sulfide vents. Or, as we are saying – Life After Vents. The East Pacific Rise (EPR) is a mid-ocean rise at a divergent tectonic plate boundary and a fast-spreading mid-ocean ridge . Along this axis, there is a lot of hydrothermal venting activity. However, this venting is ultimately transient, leaving only the sulfide mineral-rich deposits after the fluid flow stops. These inactive sulfides are beautiful and distinct features on the seafloor. They aren't teeming with the iconic life present on active vents, but they are not devoid of life either. I spent January and February on a team, led by Dr. Lauren Mullineaux from WHOI and Dr. Jason Sylvan from Texas A&M, exploring some inactive sulfides. We are using the human-occupied submers

Writing workshop

"Well, you know, I'm a physicist, so I thought about stuff...I wrote some of it down." - the TV show The Big Bang Theory Every scientist has a backlog of papers they want to write. Every. Single. One. In fact, for as much as I adore The Big Bang Theory , the #1 thing that show gets wrong is how much free time the characters have. If the show were realistic, they would never have gaps between projects. Ever. Sheldon and Leonard would spend every episode in meetings, writing proposals, managing budgets, mentoring students, and desperately, hopelessly scraping together a few minutes to write papers here and there.  Sometimes, you just have to be selfish. Sometimes, you just have to shut your office door and work. Or better yet, don't work at the office so nobody can find you.  I'm not pointing any fingers here, but there may be a certain scientist working at an undisclosed off-campus location today. She might have decided to work remotely for personal reasons, but th


Man, it was a fun day it the lab yesterday. Kharis, Sarah, and I spent the whole morning working on a project together, and we managed to make great progress.  Recently, Kharis has been struggling to identify larvae from the Arctic. Don't get me wrong - we have a good methodology , thanks to a few years of struggling and about 6 months of Johanna troubleshooting. We can reliably get good-quality sequences from our specimens now. The DNA was not the problem (for once). Kharis's struggle has been morphology. She sorted all her larvae into categories based on how they looked in the field. It's a strategy I taught her - sort everything live, photograph and preserve the specimens, then sequence them back in the lab. By sorting up-front, you can save yourself a lot of time and just sequence a few representatives of each morphotype once you're home. If the sequences for those representatives line up, you have a reliable identification for the morphotype.  If.  See, that'

The interns

Hollis joined the lab through his school's  mentorship program.  Friends, I want to tell you about something magical that's happening in our lab right now. As you know, I am passionate about mentoring the next generation of scientists. It's why I've taken on a PhD student, a postdoc, and two summer undergraduates at WHOI. If my lab was at a standard university with all sorts of students running around, I would be the professor who proudly offered research opportunities to anyone who wanted the experience. Woods Hole is decidedly short on undergrads, but what we do have are high school students hungry for a chance.  One student is doing his science fair project under my lab's mentorship for the second year in a row. Two students who did internships with us last year asked if they could come back to keep learning. I also recently signed up for the mentorship program through a high school on Martha's Vineyard and got a fantastic new lab member . Just this week, tw