Photo:

Carol White

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you Rebecca, Phil, John & Ellie for being amazing scientists and thank you to every single one of you who asked a question, voted, and made the last two weeks an absolutely awesome experience!

Favourite Thing: Experiments! I like changing a variable and then finding out that something works in a way that you didn’t expect – even if it means lots of extra work, trying to understand why!

My CV

Education:

I spent some of my childhood in Lesotho (a wild mountainous country in Africa), then moved back to Birmingham for secondary school. I studied Environmental Geoscience at Edinburgh University, mixing geography, geology, biology, chemistry and physics, before moving to Leeds to become a PhD student (a researcher).

Qualifications:

10 GCSEs (my favourite was history!), 5 A/AS levels (my favourite was politics!) and now a science degree.

Work History:

As a student I needed extra money to help pay for books (and clothes..) so I worked in a shop. I tried working in a nightclub but it was suddenly very hard to get up in the morning for my lectures! I volunteered with Oxfam for two years and met loads of really interesting people.

Current Job:

PhD student (researcher)

Employer:

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Me and my work

I’m a bio-geo-chemi-oceanographer (what a mouthful!) studying the strange creatures living on the sea floor – figuring out how they influence how much carbon is stored in ocean sediments.

I work at Leeds University, looking at how seafloor animals affect the global carbon cycle. They play a huge part in how deciding how much carbon (such as the dead wood, leaves and soil that gets washed into the sea) is locked away into the seafloor (good!) or if it’s allowed to get back into the atmosphere (bad!).

It’s my job to find out what these animals eat, what kind of environmental conditions they prefer, and how this affects they way they use carbon.

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I do experiments that can be done on:

  • sediments collected from the seafloor (by me!),
  • or on the seafloor itself (by a machine, because I can’t hold my breath for 2 days!).

I feed some organic material (mostly carbon) to the creatures living in and on the sediments and see what they do with  it in different environments. This might be different depths or places, but we also change how much oxygen they have, to see if they speed up or slow down.

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(A – these are some of the cores we collect from the seafloor. B – a close up of the surface of the seafloor!)

I’ve been able to do some really exciting research in the Arabian Sea (hot) and the Baltic Sea (cold!) – living on a research boat and working long shifts (often through the night!) – doing experiments and collecting samples to take home to my research lab.

Back in the lab I use a microscope to identify all the animals that were in the experiments, and then analyse the water, the sediments, the animals and bacteria for their unique chemistry!

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(These are some of the creatures I see under my microscope – called “foraminifera”)

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(These are some of the worms I see in the sediments – called “polychaetes”)

Why do I do it?

I think the oceans are the most exciting bit of our planet – they contain more life than anywhere else on Earth! We know more about the moon that we do about the deep oceans.. that’s madness! Yet, huge parts of this fragile environment are being damaged and I want to look at both the short-term and long-term consequences.

I really do enjoy working on the boat and in the lab, even though I get very seasick, so it helps that the animals I find under my microscope are like nothing I’ve ever seen before!

 

My Typical Day

I’m split between doing experiments, looking at creatures under a microscope, teaching students, meeting other researchers, and most importantly, drinking lots of tea!

When I’m not looking down the microscope at sea worms and other tiny creatures, I like to be outside running in the hills, dancing, and going to gigs. I love talking to other people about my work, so I try to get out into schools and museums to really let everyone know why the ocean floor is important when we’re thinking about carbon!

What I'd do with the money

I’d create an ocean roadshow – bringing the ocean to your school/computer!

Not everyone is lucky enough to live by the ocean, or to even get out on a boat (with or without being seasick!) to experience what it’s like to be an oceanographer. I want to put together an ocean fieldtrip that comes to your school – wherever you are.

With lots hands-on activities and experiments, you would choose to learn about the exciting features of the oceans that interest you.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Adventurous, excitable, curious

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I can’t stop listening to Ben Howard at the moment! But this is my favourite video, one by Coldplay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lb9X5jMofEo&ob=av2n

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Kayaking down rivers and across lakes in Poland

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

1. to go to the seafloor in a submarine, 2. to be able to time-travel (I’d go back and meet the Romans), and 3. to have an extra hour each day.. for sleeping!

What did you want to be after you left school?

Absolutely everything: first a marine biologist, then a sports scientist, an engineer, a politician, and finally a geo-scientist. I’ve ended up back at the start: marine scientist!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

I remember cheating on a Latin test…. yes I’m so old they taught me Latin!

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Snorkelling across a coral reef in Jamaica, seeing all kinds of fish and even a baby octopus

Tell us a joke.

I can never remember jokes, but here’s an ocean themed one: Why is a fish easy to weigh? Because it has its own scales! (See, I told you I wasn’t very good at this!)

Other stuff

Work photos:

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The boat I work on.

 

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(A – these are some of the cores we collect from the seafloor. B – a close up of the surface of the seafloor!)

 

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(These are some of the creatures I see under my microscope – called “foraminifera”)

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(These are some of the worms I see in the sediments – called “polychaetes”)