Paige's CO2 Adventure

"We can see land!"

It was around 10pm on the 14th. Earlier that day we had passed under the smoke plume of the volcano, and now we could see the lights of shore of some small Caribbean islands.

I ran outside with some of the scientists and stared in disbelief. After a month of open ocean, there it was, humanity. 

A crew mate walked up next to me.

"Feels weird huh?"
A pilot boat taking us into St. Thomas, USVI

Finding Oceanography

At the end of my time on this ship, I was completely in awe at how humble, how cool, how hilarious all of the scientists I interacted with truly were. I wanted to capture their stories. This does not do them justice, but it was the best I could do with the time we had. I asked everyone to tell me their "oceanography story" The responses were as follows...

What brought you into oceanography? As told by the day shift of the scientific party of the RV TGT on the GO SHIP A20 cruise

Ryan Woolsey (Chief Scientists, MIT-WHOI joint program)
Ryan slips into a room unannounced but makes you feel welcome once you lock eyes. You don’t need to speak to know he’s happy to be there and he wants to listen to your story.
Ryan grew up in sunny Colorado Springs. He always loved chemistry. In high school he took a field trip to San Diego and was able to see oceanography firsthand. A love was born. He seeked out a school that would allow him to study chemical oceanography as an undergraduate major, an impressive indicator for his instantaneous respect for this niche field. He attended the Florida institute of technology. His love only deepened. It was in graduate school where he began to focus on the carbon cycle at the University of Miami. His work analyzing the carbon cycle and ocean acidification is something he feels lucky to do. He has experience working on most of the carbon samples we ran on this cruise. This is not his first rodeo, nor will it be his last.
When asked if he likes going on these repeat hydrographic cruises, he gives a soft smile and says, “I love it out here” I instantly believe him as we stare out at the blue water, feeling the wind of the 12 knot steam to the next station.

Patrick (Research Associate, NOAA AOML)
Patrick is quiet, kind, and draws marine cartoons which are found like small shrines of joy all over the main lab.
Patrick grew up in Texas. He speaks fondly of the wildflowers and the heat. His undergrad education at University of Texas in Austin, where he studied electrical engineering. The work wasn’t exactly fulfilling. He enjoyed biology, and had heard that his university had a remote marine bio lab. He started taking classes there his junior and senior year. After graduation he went to lunch with a professor with whom he’d worked with in his time at the remote campus. He suggested that Patrick do a SEA Semester, a program through Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute which involves marine science research and a whole month aboard a tall ship. He came home hooked, well adapted for life at sea and the wholly unique environment it provides.
While searching for a full time position in research, he worked as a fisheries observer in the Bering sea for NOAA. He was brought on Pollock ships, serving a role not especially welcomed on most fishing ships. Time paid in research and sea experience, he began a masters at Coastal Carolina University, where he studied waste water outfalls. The data was frustrating, and when his experience continued to worsen, he was contacted by some friends he had made at NOAA. “I went to graduate school with the intention of being able to go and get my dream job, and then my dream job presented itself before I was even done,” He was a great fit, and left his masters program to take the job. He’s still there today, and although he doesn’t love Miami, the location of his office, with all his heart, he doesn’t intend on leaving his job anytime soon.
“It’s the people that keep me out here… I love being at sea”

Andrew (Researcher, PMEL)
Andrew is a large man, both physically and in his presence. He is a scientific goofball.
Andrew grew up on a farm in upstate New York. His childhood didn’t exactly steer him to the world of oceanography.
He did, however, love the earth, and chose conservation studies as an undergraduate major at UNH. His hook into the ocean came in a coral class, where he went diving in Barbados and studied coral systems. From there he had multiple lab positions and expanded his knowledge on coral and ocean acidification through an REU program. This catapulted him into a deeper love for the ocean and for research. From here he had the opportunity to work in multiple labs. After he graduated, he stayed on working on research in Bermuda. “I’ve learned that research and hands on experience made up for those gaps I had in hard science courses” When he decided he wanted more, he moved onto the idea of graduate school. His masters study at the University of Delaware focused on carbon in the Artic Ocean. Finally, he found a home studying carbon and DIC at PMEL, “Actually the woman who was in my current position went crazy because the system is so sensitive and difficult to work with,” Either way, he got her job, and has been working it for almost 5 years. “Sometimes I really miss coral work. But I also love carbon. I’m thankful to be where I am at PMEL but who knows what the future holds” One thing is for sure- the future holds a lot more oceanographic cruises.

Daniela (Graduate Student, Scripps Institute of Oceanography)
Daniela is full of jokes, is addicted to candy, has the kind of laugh that feels like a hug, and isn’t afraid to dole out a sprinkle of loving sass.
She grew up outside of Philadelphia. In the summer she would spend about a month at the beach in the Jersey shore. She attended undergrad at the University of Pittsburg, “I originally got into something environmental. I loved animals so much,” She received a BS in natural sciences. While there she worked in a developmental genetics lab. “I just always knew I loved science”
From Pittsburg she got a job in the bay area doing blood work on marine mammals. She loved the work, but the pay was not enough to cover the cost of living. She left for a position as a GIS analyst for Apple, where she stayed for about a year. She knew she wanted more. She put together her love of chemistry and the ocean and started reaching out to advisors. She now works with alkalinity analysis, and finding an alternative chemicals to be used in carbonate chemistry analysis of seawater.
“I really did not expect to be where I am right now. But I’m stoked to be at Scripps doing what I’m doing. I feel very lucky.”

Manuel (Research Assistant, Scripps Institute of Oceanography)
Manuel has long curly hair, takes his music and work seriously, and is the wise and funny friend you have that will never be able to be put into a box.
Manuel grew up in the inland empire, and worked towards a goal of electrical engineering at community college in Riverside. He transferred to UC San Diego and started in the engineering school, switching from electrical engineering to chemical engineering. Something wasn’t right about the fit. Manuel had ridden his bike past Scripps Institute of Oceanography before he started in the fall at UCSD. Remembering this experience, he decided to take advantage of the opportunity Scripps presented, and started taking classes and learning more about oceanic science.
While working through his classes, he held a position disposing of hazardous chemical waste in labs around the UCSD campus. He waked into the lab of a well-known chemical oceanographer. He was interested, and asked for a tour. “The PI said she was too busy to offer me a tour but instead offered me a job” He didn’t end up getting that job, but he eventually worked into a lab at Scripps. He worked around to another lab after graduation. Among other things,
Manuel is passionate about exposing a wider audience to the world and careers within earth science and oceanography “People told me that I should be a geologist while I was working towards my degree at my CC, but I had never seen anyone with that job. I didn’t know something like oceanography existed as a career.”
Manuel is on his last trip for the foreseeable future. On the first day of this cruise he accepted a position coordinating with a youth outdoor education program. The change of pace is much needed but entirely bittersweet. Many, many people on this ship have expressed how sorry they are to see him going.

Steffi (PhD Candidate, University of Alaska Fairbanks)
Steffi grew up in Chapel Hill North Carolina. She is your friend that is too good for this earth. Kind, wise, empathetic, and curious.
She received a scholarship to UNC and entered the Environmental Studies major. “The environmental science department was really great at making me feel like I belonged, and that I could get a BS (Bachelor of science)” After the encouragement she moved to the environmental science major. She was able to take a coral ecology seminar which included a field trip to St. Lucia. “The point was to bring students into the major and observe the effects of climate change. And I loved it.” After this Steffi ended up studying abroad again in Barbados. This is when her love began to solidify. She progressed into marine planning and policy work. When that didn’t quite fit, she realized it was the science itself she was interested in, and shifted her focus.
After graduation she began working full time for a chemical oceanography lab that she did research with as an undergrad. “I knew I was interested in the carbon cycle. They’re a huge source of uncertainty in climate models.” She also knew she needed more skills that graduate school would provide. She applied, and proceeded to the university of Alaska Fairbanks. “Right at the end of my masters I realized I needed more. I could do more. I then decided I should do a phd,”
Steffi is currently using advanced instruments to study carbon particles in the surface ocean at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

Abby (Graduate Student, University of Miami)
For Abby it started on the coast of Maryland. Specifically, the upper eastern shore of the Chesapeake bay where she grew up. It is physically impossible to not smile when around Abby, and I’m not sure if she’s capable of creating a frown herself.
“My dad grew up on a boat. Being on the river and the water was always a huge part of my childhood. When my parents separated my dad lived on the boat about a mile away.” From there she proceeded to University of Miami and started a major in environmental engineering. She began to see the fascinating and interconnected nature of the earth. She studied abroad in Australia where she went scuba diving. “We saw a tiger shark hunting a sea turtle and it was so incredible.” Her love of sharks was born. She added on a marine biology major.
Now Abby’s studying white spotted bamboo sharks and brown bandit bamboo sharks in captivity. In the field she studies black tip sharks and nurse sharks. Speaking to her its almost hard to believe that she hasn’t been a shark at one point in her life.

Cassandra (CTD watch stander partner)
Cassandra (you can call her Cass) practices her Spanish and has that untrainable ability to join you whenever you need a someone. Her friendship feels like one you have with a sibling in the best of times.
Cass’s story begins in the desert of Las Vegas. She was always environmentally conscious, but couldn’t find many ways to explore her interest within her family or at school. In school, Cass always enjoyed and excelled at chemistry. When she was choosing college majors, her fascination of chemistry made it easy. After the first two years she had a class where she could invest in some chemical reactions “Sophomore year of college I had to write a paper in my p chem class. I chose the topic of ocean acidification. Writing it I realized how important and urgent this is. From there I started to get more curious about the ocean and chemical oceanography.”
Cass is early on her path into oceanography, and plans to attend graduate school studying ocean acidification. Where she will do this, or what specific tack, is still undecided, and she’s optimistic she’ll find the right fit in the coming year or so. In the meantime she plans on traveling, learning more about oceanography, and mentally resetting after COVID disrupted the end of her undergrad education

Captians Log

Thursday 4-22-21
Land hooooo!
Its time to get back to reality. I've been back for almost three full days and I am a little relieved, a little jealous of those staying on for one more leg, and a little panicked that I might not get many more chances to go on a cruise like that again in my life. Oceanographic modeling (my current area of research) exists to create estimates of the ocean in the absence of in situ data. My work is to make alternatives to going on cruises...
I still plan on doing one more newsletter. I think I'll spend some serious time thinking about what this experience has meant to me in the coming weekend. In the meantime I'm back to my usual graduate student routine, teaching sections for a climate change class, taking a class on marine dynamics, moving forward with my own research on waste water impacts in the southern California bight, and partnering with UCLA's environmental justice group.
I didn't miss zoom, but I did miss my family, friends, and collaborators. I was not ready to get off the ship, but I am happy to be back home.

Where is the Thomas Thompson right now?

Lets find out!


Clockwise from left : One of our last sunsets (no filter), the two MASSIVE 12 cylinder diesel engines that power the ship, everyone soaking in the approach to St. Thomas Thursday morning, and a beautiful sunny sampling deck.
XOXO Paige Hoel

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