Dr. Deborah Kelley: Working At-Sea
Most of my research focuses right now on, really, the interactions of volcanoes and how volcanoes support life on this planet in submarine environments; so at water depths of maybe 2,000 meters or greater. We know that the volcanoes put out volcanic gases in that the micro-organisms that live around the volcano and some of the hot springs thrive on those volcanic gases. It's estimated that we know less than 1% of the kinds of microbes that live in this environment. And yet it might rival... If you took all the biomass that's living... All the microbial communities living in the seafloor. It actually might rival that on the surface of the planet... on the continents. So it's a big unknown right now and one of the things I think in the next decade we'll be exploring.
My responsibilities at sea vary. Often I sail as two scientist or coaching scientist. For me it's a gift. I very much enjoy it. I get to work with a lot of really amazing people and it really forms a long-time friendship with many of the people. So much of my responsibility is basically making sure that everybody on the cruise gets what they need to get their science done. Looking out for them, organizing the dives, and really just planning and a lot of interaction with the science party.
Some of the main challenges in working at sea... One is the weather. You have plans that maybe have been laid out for 3 or 4 years prior to going out there. Usually within a couple of days those plans get changed quite dramatically due to weather or equipment failures. Other challenges are that the ships are relatively small, maybe 300 feet long or so and there's a science party of maybe 30-something people. Integrated the science party and making sure the people get what they need for their research is... can be challenging at times.
One of the most things I like about going to sea is just being out on the water and probably my favorite part is the opportunities for discovery. Almost every cruise I've been on we found new things we didn't know about and to me that's... You don't get... There’re not many people that can do that in their lifetime so it's something I always look forward to.