Category Archives: Meet the scientists

Interviews with the scientists on board Exp. 353

Meet the… Technicians!

I’ve introduced you to a bunch of the scientists on board (although there are still more to come and the expedition is drawing to a close!), but we haven’t yet met some of the most important people on the whole cruise… the techs!

The technical crew include a raft of folks who really make the expedition run smoothly – without them the whole shebang would surely fall apart. So today we’re going to meet Chieh, one of the key cogs in the JR wheel….

……………………

Good morning/ afternoon (time has no meaning in this place)! Can you tell us who you are and what you do on board the JR?

CP: My name is Chieh Peng, and I work for IODP. I was from Taiwan originally, and now I’m a USA citizen.

Cheih catwalk1

[Chieh leading the core onto the catwalk, ready to be cut and curated]

My background is in geochemistry. I am one of the 2 assistant lab officers, who act as laboratory foremen. We oversee all technical support activities, make sure all the cores and samples are processed and taken accordingly and in a timely fashion, and manage logistics support including preparation of shipping document for off-going samples, cores, and equipment.

And why exactly is this job important to the expedition? Why would happen if you (or someone doing your job) wasn’t here?)

CP: IODP technical staff provide laboratory support for the scientific party. We maintain all instruments to their optimal operating conditions, We help curate cores and samples to keep up with the IODP standards.

The assistant lab officers are senior technicians; we understand the tasks in the lab, we have a lot of experience in various fields, and we know the ship crew and our technical staff very well. It is important that we can coordinate efforts among the ship crew, the technical staff, and the scientists to fulfill all requests.

Hopefully, if one of us can’t be here, there are other senior technicians that can step into the role.

[Chieh is being modest – if she or her nightshift counterpart Heather weren’t here, chaos would reign! We scientists need a firm hand in the lab or we get out of hand 🙂 ]

Cheih catwalk 4

[Chieh cutting the core into sections ready to be capped and taken inside to the labs]

I know you’re one of our most experienced techs out here, but how long exactly have you been working for IODP/ODP, and how many expeditions have you been on?

CP: I have been with the program since 1991, I have sailed over 60 expeditions.

60 expeditions???? That’s insane, considering that each expedition is 2 months long. How many years of your life have you spent at sea in total?

CP: Over 10 years

Wow, hats off to you Chieh. The JR really is your second (first?) home.

Core view

Well with all that time spent out here, what would you say is the best part about being at sea?

CP: Meeting new people, learning new science, and helping scientists achieve their goals

And what’s the worst or hardest part about being at sea? What do you miss most.

CP: Being away from family and friends. I miss my dog.

I’d have to agree, being on the JR is fun but I sure do miss my family. I don’t have a dog, but if I did, I suspect I’d miss it too…

Well thanks for joining us Chieh. Keep on sailing!

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Meet the… paleomagicians!

For our next “meet the scientists” we’re going to have a chat with our resident paleomagicians, Yoichi and Sam, who are going to explain why measuring the magnetic signature of ancient sediments is so important to an IODP cruise…

………

Good afternoon gentlemen. Can you please start by introducing yourselves to the good people of the internet…

ST: Hi, I’m Sam and I am a British rock magnetist (magician) working in IPGP (Insitut de Physique du Globe de Paris), France.

YU: I’m Yoichi Usui from Japan, and I work at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).

Yoichi core pose   sam magentometer

[Yoichi taking pmag cubes from the core, and Sam getting ready to run the samples]

Thanks for joining us guys. So what’s your specialty on the JR and what does it involve?

ST: On this wonderfully-big boat, I make up one-half of the paleomagnetism team. In addition to the biostratigraphers, we use our magic to determine the ages of the recovered sediments. Here is a brief explanation of how. First I should mention that the Earth has a magnetic field, which protects us from solar wind. It is averaged as a dipole (i.e. a North and South pole) and through geologic time, these N-S poles have flipped, so the North becomes the South and so on (which is probably confusing for fish and birds). These ‘flips’ are known as polarity changes and have been reliably dated for many tens of millions of years. Therefore we look for changes in polarity within the sediments to give us age markers. This is possible since iron-bearing minerals, especially iron-oxides, are ubiquitous in natural sedimentary environments. They have the ability to record the state of the Earth’s magnetic field at their time of deposition (generally), so we can see whether we were in a normal polarity, or a reversed polarity

 YU: Paleomagnetism. As Sam says, it involves reading the geomagnetic field record naturally imprinted in sediments in the form of subtle alignment of nano-scale iron sand and alike (and packing cores after measurements; we are the last persons to process the cores in the lab). 

 

Ok, so you’re using the natural flips in the earth’s Magnetic field as a way of telling time. That’s very clever. So why exactly is this job so important to our expedition?

YU: Paleomagnetism can date the cores, by comparing the geomagnetic record with a standard pattern established elsewhere. The nice thing about the magnetic dating is that you can compare the results with almost everything everywhere; it would equally work on Hawaiian lavas or speleothems in caves.       

 ST: It is one of the most important jobs in any expedition. Sedimentary profiles wouldn’t be as useful are they are, and have been, without an estimate of their age and sedimentation rates as a result. Paleomagnetism is an independent method away from biostratigraphy, and in my (esteemed) opinion, provides more defined age determination than biostratigraphic events. This is because changes in the Earth’s magnetic field is a global phenomenon and therefore can be recorded anywhere, even with extremely low trace amounts of minerals.


Yoichi magentometer

[Yoichi working at (behind) the magnetometer – it wins the prize for the biggest piece of equipment we have in the JR lab]

     

Ah I see, so by measuring the paleomag signature in the rocks you can create a normal-reversed barcode pattern, which means we can convert depth in the core into time – always our ultimate goal! You and the biostratigraphers (like Clara and Oscar who I interviewed a few weeks ago) work closely together to produce the beautiful age models, which all the subsequent work is based on.

So that’s your job on the ship, but what is your regular area of research at home, and what are you working on at the moment?

YU: I’m trying to find the oldest geomagnetic record (so far I found one from 3.4 billion years ago). I’m also building an equipment to measure magnetic record from on-land rocks more accurately and rapidly, so that I can compare the results with sediments recovered by the JR or other ships.     

 ST: So I have just finished my PhD (woo!). I was using rock magnetism on loess-palaeosol deposits (terrestrial aeolian sedimentary deposits) to understand changes in the climate and environment during the last glacial period. I predominantly focused on 1) changes in the concentration, grain size and mineralogy of the mineral magnetic assemblage and 2) the anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility (magnetic fabrics), to further understand how changes in climate can shape magnetism.         

Congratulations on finding such an old record, Yoichi, and on becoming Dr Taylor, Sam! And what’s the scientific question you are both most hoping to answer with the new material from Exp. 353?

YU: Exactly when did the geomagnetic field reverse (we know it did reverse many times), and what happens at that times. 

 ST: The main aim of the expedition is to understand the physical mechanisms that drive changes in monsoonal precipitation, erosion, run-off and both atmospheric and ocean circulations. I wish to directly address these with an environmental magnetism study, while further improving the age models for the sediments in a region and time period questing for high quality data.

I’m sure the great material we’ve recovered will take you nearer to answering those questions over the next few years of work. So what’s the best part about being at sea on the JR? What has been the most fun (apart from hanging out with me which goes without saying)?

YU: Talking (both scientific and non-scientific) with people from various countries.            

ST: Food, food, oh glorious food.

 (They feed us constantly on the boat with cakes and cookies and fried food – if you have a big appetite, the JR is the place for you…).

IODP Expedition 353 Indian Monsoon

Ok, food and talking. Good choices. Now what is the worst part about being at sea and what  do you miss most from home?

ST: As Juliet (Education Outreach officer) would say every time she comes past the lab during a video outreach  session “So who has had problems with seasickness?”. I had one bad day with seasickness, which I blame myself 100% for because I bought the wrong tablets. Fortunately, there is a very good doctor on board! In terms of missing things from home, not being with family over Christmas was a little sad. However, we all had a lot of fun on Xmas day with caroling, lots of entertainment and of course, too much food.

YU: Fresh vegetables.

 I hear you Yoichi – the first thing I’m going to do when I get to Singapore is have a salad. Most probably with a generously proportioned beer.

Ok gentlemen, thanks very much for taking the time to inform us about the wonderful world of paleomagnetism. You’ll never be as cool as the sedimentologists, but you give it a good try! 🙂

Meet the…. stratigraphic correlators

Afternoon (shore-based) shipmates!

As we are currently drilling Hole C at Site U1445, I thought this would be a good moment to introduce you to the stratigraphic correlators, and why it is that we feel the need to drill more than one hole in the exact same spot in the ocean!

Liviu is our day-shift correlator, who is hard at work as we speak making sure all the cores are correctly offset and that we’re not missing anything. I’ll let him expain in his own words what it is that he does…

Go ahead and introduce yourself – to start off, what do we call you?

Giosan… Liviu Giosan… 🙂

Hello Luviu. And where do you hail from?

I am a Romanian working in the USA at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod near Boston. Woods Hole, home of famed research submarine Alvin, is the largest independent institute for ocean exploration in the world and has sent many able marine scientists to sail on JR over time.

Ah so you’re from the “other Falmouth” in the USA. I bet it’s not as good as the original one in Cornwall 😉

Liviu at work

[Liviu working hard at the correlator’s station]

So what is your specialty on the JR and what does it involve?

I am a geoscientist widely interested in many aspects of Earth’s history. I sail here as a stratigraphic correlator – and together with my colleague Gianluca Marino, we make sure that the mud recovered by drilling is as complete as possible. What does this mean?

Let’s imagine an old book that has only two copies left and each copy has pages missing. The pages not available in one copy may be available in the other. The cylinders of mud that we extract at the bottom of the ocean have layers upon layers, pages in Earth’s history book. We can read that book through studies in our labs around the world. The deeper we drill the earlier we reach in time.

Drilling today is one amazing technology, but it is not perfect. We may lose mud layers, when we drill first, but a second try or a third one may not miss the same mud. Our job as correlators is to make sure that we can piece together this mud book from multiple drilled holes.

 

Coring offset figure

[Cartoon to show multiple-hole drilling. Black = full recovery, white = the bit we missed. The virtual splice created by the correlators combines both cores to make a complete record with no gaps! Just what we paleoceanographers need for our ongoing work]

 

 Great explanation! But why exactly is this job so important to the expedition and to ocean drilling in general?

Completeness insures that all scientists involved in this great effort called scientific drilling are able to perform their studies when they return in the lab. Drilling in the ocean is hard and expensive; it is not possible to go back in the same spot to drill again for decades or maybe ever. Correlation in real time insures that we get the best mud that money can buy …

Ah, value for money – always a compelling argument in these tough times. So can you tell us what your normal area of research is at home when you’re not on the JR?

I am interested in how people. Climate and landscapes interact and enrich or limit each other… For example: did climate cause the fall of the Indus civilization 4000 years ago? Did humans build river deltas by adopting agriculture in the Neolithic? Did the monsoon impact human migration out of Africa? Can we do anything to preserve lowland coasts for our grandchildren as sea level rises?

Oooh interesting stuff. And what is the scientific question you are most hoping to answer with the new material from Exp. 353?

 That’s a good question … Did not figure that out yet!

You have plenty of time and we’re getting great mud, so don’t worry! All of our research plans are evolving as we bring up more material during the cruise.

IODP Expedition 353 Indian Monsoon

[Liviu and Gianluca enjoying the sunshine on deck]

 

So what is the best part about being at sea on the JR?

I like the intense science done under pressure. After all – at the end of each cruise we have a book already written about the region we drilled. In what scientific program can you find such excitement and efficiency?

That’s very true. Sometimes we produce our best work with no rest and lots of motivation…! What is the worst part about being at sea on the JR? What do you miss most from home?

I miss my wife practicing piano – she is a classical pianist – when I work on my papers – it soothes me … And my high school son talking about engines and how we should not give up on inventing a perpetuum mobile 🙂

Great, well thanks Liviu. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Well, never pass the opportunity to sail in a science drilling cruise if you are ever presented with one!

 Excellent advice! See you next time for more deep-sea discoveries…

Meet the…. biostratigraphers!

Good afternoon folks.

This week on “meet the scientists” we’re going for another double-whammy of scientific introductory goodness. So without further ado I will introduce you to Clara and Oscar, who are part of our paleontology (“Paleo”) dream team here on Exp. 353.

……………

Hello interviewees! Can you tell the nice people at home what your names are and where you come from please?

CB: I’m Clara Bolton from the UK, and I’m a junior CNRS researcher at CEREGE in Aix-en Provence, France.

OR: I’m Oscar E. Romero, German/Argentinean; a Senior Researcher at MARUM, Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University Bremen, Germany. 

clara microscope_small                                      Oscar microscope_small

[Clara and Oscar working hard at their respective microscopes, deep in the Paleo-annex]

Good stuff. So can you tell us what your specialty is on the JR and what it involves?

CB: Nannos! Mostly this involves making slides of the mud from each core as it comes up, looking at it in the microscope, and based on what species of calcareous nannofossils I see, working out how old it is. Nannos are the fossil remains of a group of phytoplankton that used to live in the surface ocean (coccolithophores).

  Coccolithophore_2

[Some truly awesome modern coccolithophores filtered from the seawater around the JR this expedition. So. Darn. Cool.]
OR: On the JR I am sailing as a micropaleontologist/biostratigrapher. My specialty is studying diatoms, which are siliceous microorganisms thriving in surface waters of all ocean waters. When they die, their remains sink and accumulate in bottom ocean sediments. As a JR biostratigrapher, I help determine the ages of the collected sediments. Diatoms and other microfossils deliver these ages.

Nitzschia_bicapitata

[A cute little modern diatom – totally made of silica, so pretty much glass. Beautiful!]

Sounds like you get to look at awesome tiny fossils all day – what could be nicer?! But why is this job so important to the expedition objectives?

OR: As soon as sediment cores are on board, scientists need to know how old (or young) sediments are. Since biostratigraphers are the first scientists working on collected sediment, we can rapidly find out in which part of the geological time scale we are.

CB: Nannos have a very high evolutionary turnover, so they can provide quite precise ages based on the presence/absence of marker species. They are also very abundant in the tropical open ocean fossil record, like here in the Indian Ocean, so they can provide information where other microfossils are absent. In real time, we are able to tell the scientists how deep in time they are, so they know whether to go [drill] deeper or stop!

 

core_close_up_1

[ A fresh core surface: both Clara and Oscar take tiny “smear slides” from the cores by mixing a toothpick-sized piece of sediment with a drop of water on a glass slide. Looking at these slides under the microscope lets them identify the different species of nanno and diatom in each sample in no time at all!]

clara slide

[Clara skillfully making a smear-slide with a toothpick – Credit: Bill Crawford and IODP]

Ah so that’s why we brought you guys along 🙂 Can you briefly tell us what floats your metaphorical boat research-wise when you’re not on the JR?

OR: I do research on marine sediments from different parts of the world ocean and teach micropaleontology to undergrads.

CB: Paleoceanography. I use nannos (and sometimes foraminifers) as a proxy for understanding past changes in oceanographic conditions (like nutrient conditions and ocean chemistry), to understand the two-way relationship between climate and biotic responses.

 Ah, so with all the lovely mud we’re coring in the Bay of Bengal, this is just the expedition for you, eh? What is the scientific question you are most hoping to answer with the new material from Exp. 353?

CB: I hope to see how primary productivity varied in relation to the evolution of the monsoon and Earth’s orbital cycles.

OR: I am interested in (1) basin-to-basin changes of nutrient availability and (2) high-resolution variability of paleoclimatic conditions. As for human beings, nutrients (food!) are needed by diatoms for growth and to stay alive; depending on whether these nutrients were present (or not) in the surface waters of the ocean in geological past times, diatoms were there or they were not. This gives us clues about past changes in productivity. Since I am also working in the Indonesian area, the eastern equatorial Pacific and the Gulf of Alaska, I can compare sediment records –of the same age- from different parts of the world ocean. This brings me to my second interest: by looking at diatoms, we can also describe how the climate and the ocean conditions changed through time.

Cool beans. Well thanks for enlightening us about your science. What would you say is the best part about being on the JR?

CB: Making new friends and future collaborators, the amazing ever-changing clouds and all the sunsets…

OR: Sharing time with an incredible amount of amazing scientists and learning from different fields of research.

clara cake_3_small

[Clara enjoying her amazing nanno-themed birthday cake last week! Birthdays are taken very seriously on board, with lots of singing, cakes and good times]

IMG_7705

[Oscar having a good time on the catwalk – credit: @holy_kau]

Agreed, definitely some of my favourite things about being here too. Now what’s the worst part about being at sea on the JR, and what do you miss most from home?

 CB: Friends and family (a bit obvious but true!)

OR: I miss several things; family, friends, meals, my mountain-bike, jogging outdoors, my bed!

Well thanks very much Clara and Oscar – a fascinating glimpse into the secretive world of the sea-going paleontologist. Next time on “meet the scientists”, what is a “stratigraphic correlator” when he’s at home…?

Meet the…. sedimentologists!

For our next “meet the scientists”, we’re going to be chatting to the absolute most important people on the whole ship. Yes, it’s the sedimentologists*.

And because we are so important, and indeed, because there are 8 of us on Exp. 353, I am going to interview two of them simultaneously! My powers of multi-tasking are indeed profound.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Sunghan and Kau, who are going to explain what we do on board the JR and why it’s so intensely vital…

………

Greetings interviewees. So to start us off, can you please introduce yourselves?

SK: My name is Sunghan Kim. I’m the only Korean here on the JR, and a Post-Doc Researcher from Pusan National University, Busan.

KT: I’m Kaustubh Thirumalai, or Kau (pronounced ‘cow’) for short. I hail from Bangalore, India where I was born and brought up. I went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree from the National Institute of Technology Karnataka where I majored in chemical engineering (with a minor in procrastination) at Surathkal, a small college-town on the southwestern coast of India. Currently, I am a PhD candidate at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics in Austin, Texas, USA.

kau                                  Sunghan

[L: Kau staring down the barrel of a core; R: Sunghan having a great time with the microscope]

Ok, nice to meet you both! What is your specialty on the JR and what does it involve?

SK: Sedimentologist. We have 8 sedimentologists on Expedition 353; do you know what that means? Sedimentologists are involved in the most difficult and important parts of Expedition 353.

KT: For Expedition 353, I am sailing on the JR as a sedimentologist, which is a glorified term for a mud describer. Essentially, my job is to make detailed reports about the cores that continuously come up on deck from the drill floor. This includes distinguishing the sediment’s color, coarseness, composition, and noting down when, where, how and potentially why, changes in these characteristics occur in the cores. For this leg, there are eight sedimentologists (four on each shift) and we all work together to ensure that the cores are described in a consistent manner: the devil is always in the details!

investigation kau

[Kau making sure no devilish details are overlooked!]

Fabulous. So can you tell us why exactly the job of a sedimentologist is so important to the expedition? What does it contribute scientifically?

SK: We provide basic information about core materials for further study. I think the basic information provided by us is the gateway to great science.

KT: Since Expedition 353 is a sediment-heavy mission, the sedimentologists are really important, not only for other working groups aboard, but also for shore-based scientists who would like to obtain a clear idea about what we have drilled. Besides providing descriptions of the core, the eight of us will play a big role in relating the actual sedimentology of the core to the output of different groups including downhole data, physical properties, and age constraints [See later posts for more about these jobs]. Our descriptions can also help the chemists and biostratigraphers in choosing “interesting” sediment sample for their measurements. Stratigraphic correlators can also use our observations in making comparisons between different core-holes at the same location. Most importantly, our reports will help several scientists who would like to sample these sediments for various purposes in the future.
Smear slide prep_1

[The boys being schooled by “smear-slide-Steve” in the ways of the core]

Ok great, and what are your normal areas of research back at home, when you’re not on the JR?

 SK: The fields of paleoclimate and paleoceanography. Using various proxies, I have studied the paleoceanographic/paleoclimatic changes mainly in the high latitudes: Bering Sea, NW and NE subarctic Pacific, and additionally central equatorial Pacific, as part of collaborative projects. I am interested in the regional/local changes and in understanding of the relationship between low and high latitudes.

KT: My normal area of research is in paleoceanography (my abnormal areas of research is reserved for another post). In particular, I try and understand how hot/cold, salty/fresh oceanic waters were in ancient times and why they changed over time. How do I do this? Using small plankton-shells (called “foraminifera”) that record all this information in their chemistry of course! I am very much interested in using geochemical methods that are tried and tested to extract climatic information (like sea-surface temperature and salinity) from these shells that are found in marine sediments. This climatic information can be used to validate complex global climate models that try to simulate future climate considering manmade global warming. Instead of ‘forecasting’ climate, some of these models are ‘hindmost’ to investigate past climates. Only through a marriage of modeling and paleo-data can we truly understand past climatic changes and gain a better handle on future changes that we will see (and are already experiencing).

Ok thanks for the background information fellas. Going back to Exp. 353, what is the scientific question you are most hoping to answer with the new material from the expedition?

SK: I want to understand how paleoproductivity, clay mineralogy, and trace metal distribution changed in relation to the evolving Indian Monsoon? If so, how are they connected? Moreover, I hope to find the connection between changes in the Indian monsoon system and the oceanographic/climatic system in the high latitudes, or the North Pacific, as a final goal.

KT: I would love to get my hands on ‘young’ sediment in the Bay of Bengal. For me, ‘young’ sediment can be anywhere from present to 40,000 years ago. As I mentioned above, there are many climate models that try and simulate past climate over this time – but many of them give different ‘answers’ regarding the strength and sensitivity of the Indian monsoon. Using the geochemistry of foraminiferal shells, I would like to reconstruct monsoonal variability and use the newly generated data to validate and test climate model output during this time period.

Great, well that raps it up for the science part. Now for the nitty gritty… what is the best part about being at sea on the JR?

SK: Communication with other excellent scientists from all different fields. I don’t do Facebook at all, but some friends of mine told me about my photos in the IODP Facebook. So, this kind of thing is also nice just to imagine that people around the world are watching me.


sunghan_singing

[Sunghan leading us in the Korean version of Silent Night – good job!]

KT: The best part about being at sea on the JR is the people that you meet including the crew, staff, drillers, engineers, technicians, and last, but not least, the scientists! Everyone has an intriguing story as to how and why they ended up here on this one vessel that is seemingly floating in the middle of nowhere!

guitar

[Kau and Markus jamming with the JR guitars]

Every silver lining has a cloud. What is the worst part about being at sea on the JR? What do you miss most from home?

SK: I have to be apart from my family. My 11-month daughter and wife. My wife’s birthday was a few days ago and what is more is my daughter’s FIRST birthday is just coming next month. When I go back home after the Expedition, I am sure that my daughter will treat me as a stranger for a few days, weeks, or months? I have no idea. [Aww don’t worry Sunghan, I’m sure she won’t forget you!]

KT: I don’t know if there is a ‘worst’ thing about being at sea – I really enjoy it. But one of the more annoying things is not being able to instantly communicate with your family and friends in today’s smartphone age. Although, I must say, so far on the JR, this has been quite refreshing!

Ok well thanks for taking the time to answer the questions gentlemen. I look forward to continuing to work with you both over the next 5 weeks!

Next time on “meet the scientists”, what do biostratigraphers do and how tiny are microfossils?

*I am in no way biased by the fact that I am a sedimentologist. And even if I was, what are you going to do about it? It’s my blog.

Meet the scientists. Vol 1: The Co-Chiefs

Good afternoon! We have a brief respite from the relentless core-on-the-floor this weekend, as we transit to the next site and clear up a few bureaucratic issues with India, so I thought it would be a nice moment to introduce a new segment to the blog: “meet the scientists”.

The scientists are but one part of the crew who work together to make any IODP expedition successful (see my earlier post for a full breakdown of who’s-who on the JR), but they’re a big part of making sure the scientific objectives of the cruise get met. We toil out here for 60 days straight (!) to make sure the cores are properly described and recorded, so it will be of maximum value to both ourselves and the wider scientific community for years to come. So it seems only fitting that you should get to meet us properly.

First up is one of our illustrious co-chiefs, Steve Clemens, who will explain a little bit about who he is and what his job out here entails.

………………………..

Hello interviewee. Please tell the good people your name, your nationality, your position, and what institute you’re from.

Steve Clemens, USA, Associate Professor of Research, Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island   

Steve cochief_low res

Ok great –  what’s your specialty on the JR and what does it involve?

I’m a Co-Chief Scientist. The two Co-Chiefs [the other is Wolfgang Kuhnt from Germany] are responsible for ensuring that the overall scientific goals of the expedition are met. Drilling operations at sea rarely go as planned, there are always surprises.

Thus far we have had delays related to damage from a lightning strike to the drilling tower (!), bent and broken piston cores, and damage to the cable that moves through the drill pipe. Consequently, we spend time revising the operational plan to ensure that we have sufficient time to drill at all the primary locations we have targeted in the 61 days we have to conduct the expedition. We also spend time reviewing and commenting on reports from the various lab groups including sedimentology, micropaleontology, paleomagnetics, chemistry, stratigraphy and down-hole logging. Ultimately we will synthesize all the results into a coherent report on the scientific outcomes of the expedition.  

Uh huh… sounds pretty tricky. Why exactly is this job important to the expedition?

The Co-chief’s are important to the expedition because we are responsible for coordinating the overall organization and day to day operations of the scientific work. This job actually began years before the expedition, with the organization of a group of scientists to write and defend the proposal to conduct this expedition. The proposal spent three years in competition with many other proposals to use the JR for scientific research.  

3_derrick pointers low res copy

Ok then, so you’re a big cheese on the boat, but what’s your regular area of research at home when you’re not on the JR?

My normal area of research is the focus of this expedition, understanding past changes in the Indian and Asian monsoon systems.  

Well then this is just the expedition for you! What is the scientific question you are most hoping to answer with the new material from Exp. 353?

I hope to better understand why the the Indian and Asian monsoon systems change in different ways over time. It’s a bit odd that they do so, given that they both have very similar sources of moisture.  

Ok that’s enough science talk. What’s the best part about being at sea on the JR for you?

No doubt, the best part is working with a large group of enthusiastic scientists who are willing to work 12 hours a day for 61 days in a row and love doing it. Developing new scientific collaborations that will last years into the future is a huge benefit of sailing on expeditions like this one.  

Now what about the bad stuff…what’s the worst part about being at sea on the JR? What do you miss most from home?

Beside the obvious down side of missing family and friends from home, there is only one difficult aspect to working on the JR and that is that there is almost no down-time; it’s nearly all working and sleeping. Even after a 12 hour shift, there’s work left to do.

Couldn’t agree more Steve, maybe you should give us the day off…? 🙂

Tune in next time for more scientist-meeting. Next up: (the most important people of all) the sedimentologists!