Showing posts from January, 2016

Full Circle

Dear friends, it's taken a while, but I am proud to bring you the final movement of my Arctic violin concerto, entitled “Full Circle.” The concerto has a total of 6 movements, all named after places I’ve seen or experiences I’ve had in the Arctic since I started going there in 2011 . This piece is about my favorite place on Earth. It’s about mountains and about valleys; it’s about plateaus and rivers and fjords. It’s about polar bears and northern lights, sea ice and glaciers. It’s about every day the sun doesn’t set, and every day the sun doesn’t rise. This piece is about international community at the top of the world. It’s about the work I’ve already accomplished and the discoveries I have yet to make. It’s about my weary eyes, my pounding heart, my chilled fingertips, chapped lips, and lungs blasted clean by the cold. It’s about life. It’s about home. It’s about everything that makes me come alive. I hope this music helps you feel what I feel. As always,

No bad days: Part 2

Friends, as you know, I'm in Oregon now, and my scientific travel schedule is significantly emptier than normal this year. All the data for my dissertation are collected, so I'm stuck here for a while as I analyze the data and write my thesis. I'm using this period of geographic stability to re-discover and re-connect with Oregon , the state that up until now has been more of a resting place between trips than an actual home. And I'm liking it. One of my favorite things about Oregon is its geography. The state is arranged in vertical stripes. There's the coast on the western side of the state, flanked by the coastal mountain range, then the valleys, the Cascade Mountains, and the eastern high desert. Compared to other U.S. states, Oregon is also relatively compact - even though I live on the coast, I can drive into the Cascades in under 4 hours. And that is exactly what I did yesterday. My lab's post-doc, Luciana, and I both like to snowboard, so we packed u

Massive addictive

"Give me purity, strength, and affection Give me lust to ignite my devotion for life It's where beauty comes alive... Massive addictive I'm totally completely afflicted" - "Massive Addictive" by Amaranthe After my committee meeting last week , I left main campus thinking about what makes me unique as a scientist. The committee charged me with the task of deciding what I want to be known for, so as I drove back to Coos Bay, I set the tone for my ponderings with the most unique music I could think of - Amaranthe's Massive Addictive album - blasting from my stereo. I like Amaranthe because their style is a distinctive blend of heavy metal and electronica, but the two contrasting elements don't just exist side by side; they are seamlessly fused into something entirely new. As I look forward and begin to shape my thesis, my challenge is largely the same: to fuse two different traditions into something entirely new and unique. I'm starting

The future of the world as we know it

After an action-packed 2 days, the DESCEND-2 workshop came to a close this evening. Yes, 2 days seems awfully short for a workshop to decide the future of the world as we know it (well, at least as far as submergence technologies are concerned), but let me tell you, not a second was wasted. We had nothing but short coffee breaks during the whole workshop and even worked straight through lunch. In the end, we made some real progress. Today began with some presentations on new and emerging technologies. The presenters were from a variety of backgrounds and organizations - private companies, non-profit organizations, government-sector funding agencies, and scientific institutes. One thing I've actually heard from the older researchers at the workshop is that the available research infrastructure nowadays comes from a wider variety of sources than it ever used to. Decades ago, the only option was government-funded and -administrated ship time, but now, there are numerous for-profit a

Night at the Museum

Minerals on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History Whenever scientists get together to talk about, well, science, it's tradition to hold a conference dinner. Of course every event is different, but some conventions do hold. Conference dinners are usually up-scale affairs, and they're held in the most unique location available. I remember my first conference dinner, in 2010, when I ate ox meat with a green, creamy sauce at the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History. I've had conference dinners at yacht clubs and fancy restaurants by the sea. I've seen participants remain reserved, and I've seen them walk home barefoot, arm-in-arm. But dear friends, before today, I had never had a conference dinner at Harvard. We were ushered into the Harvard Museum of Natural History, opened exclusively for DESCEND-2 participants after hours. We were instructed to hang our coats, help ourselves to hors d'oeuvres, and explore the open exhibits. I was personally fa

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 necess


Dear friends, here I am. I'm back in Oregon after my Christmas vacation, and I've hit the ground running. This morning, I had a very important meeting on UO's main campus. It was the annual meeting of my dissertation advisory committee (DAC), and if you don't know what a DAC is, it's a group of 5 professors designated to control my fate. I meet with the committee members each year to show them what I've accomplished in my research and seek their advice on where to go next. It sounds all well and good, but committee meetings have always terrified me. I can't recall a single one that I've enjoyed. I mean, imagine sitting down with 5 highly intelligent and powerful people, then listening as they discuss what you've done right and what you've done wrong. It's taxing every time. The good news, I guess, is that I have a great committee. They're 5 individuals that I trust with my future, and their criticisms are always intended to help me im

No bad days

"A bad day of snowboarding is still better than a good day of anything else." - message on a T-shirt Friends, it's been a fantastic couple of weeks. I wasn't sure if I would post anything while on my Christmas vacation, and I was right - I've been way too busy enjoying myself! I went to my parents' cottage in northern Michigan and filled my days with snowboarding, eating, and talking to my mom.  I love Michigan because of all the places I've lived on Earth, Michigan is the one I know best. I spent the first 21 years of my life in the state, and I can get myself virtually anywhere on its two peninsulas without even looking at a map. I love the small towns and the unlit country roads. I love the hills and the streams and the forest. I love the Great Lakes, those expansive, freshwater oceans, and I love the the snow that blankets the state every year from October to May.  While on vacation, I haven't done much science at all. I wrote one year