Oceanography as an Opportunity to Contribute

by Dax Soule Fri, 25 Jul 2008 3:36 PM PDT

My participation in this cruise is the realization of what I once considered a wild dream.  Oceanography is my opportunity to contribute to what we know about the single most complex, diverse and important ecosystem on our planet. I cannot imagine an area of research that has more potential to impact society and pay dividends. The growing human population and depletion of marine resources make data collection and analysis a critical mission for the current generation of scientists.

I am a first year graduate student at the University of Washington, School of Oceanography. I am interested in using seismology and acoustics to explore a wide range of questions related to our oceans. My studies will focus on the tectonics of spreading centers, hydrothermal vent systems, and underwater volcanoes. I hope to find innovative ways to use geophysics to study the wide range of questions whose answers lie just beyond our reach. 

This is my third voyage on a research vessel. This cruise gives me an opportunity to expand beyond the physical work of oceanography and learn about the tools and software of my profession. The thing that excites me is the electric sense that exudes from each of the participants at the beginning of the trip. We all come from different backgrounds with widely varying skill levels, but it seems that we share a common feeling of optimism and enthusiasm for our mission. Each person seems to understand that the work we are doing is laying the groundwork for what could fundamentally change how we study the oceans.

The lack of sleep, the bustle of getting underway, the challenge of configuring the data collection systems and getting accustomed the varying personalities aboard a research vessel all combine to enhance the feeling of adventure. John Delaney and Deb Kelley have worked to create an atmosphere of openness. They have included the entire science party in the decision making process and made it clear that they expect that each of us to behave as stakeholders. The willingness to empower all of us to make decisions has resulted in a collective sense of responsibility and an accelerated development of the entire team.

The second night out a pod of porpoises were swimming next to the ship, leaping into the air playing in the ship’s wake. I feel very fortunate to be starting my career during an age where the study of the oceans requires spending time upon them.