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You wanted to know: who are these scientists?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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For the past few days we’ve covered some of the scientists on board through their PI’s: Kay Bidle, Jack DiTullio and Rachel, Petey and Jacob, Marco Coolen and Cherel, Anna Martins, Assaf and his gang. But there are still some scientists you haven’t met yet.

Let’s go alphabetically.

Spying on Benjamin

Benjamin Bailleul is a physicist turned physical oceanographer. Like a true physicist, rather than accepting the standard oceanographic metrics – the ways in which oceanographers measure things like photosynthesis or primary production, Benjamin is testing them. He’s wondering whether they’re rigorous enough and he’s finding out that often scientists are using one measurement – say, for photosynthesis – when it’s not necessarily a good representation of that process at all.

Benjamin also comes from a long tradition of extremely important Frenchmen – his grandparents having brought artichokes and chicory to France in a time of starvation, saving many people’s lives and earning himself a golden statue in Paris. You can choose how much of that to believe, as Benjamin is also known to tell outlandish stories that are, let’s say, “controversial” in their authenticity. It’s dangerous business to play favorites on board, but I think Benjamin might be the funniest person on the ship.

Chris Brown's patented filtering method.

Chris Brown is our token Canadian on board, although he didn’t have very many ideas about how to actually celebrate Canada Day. He’s running one of the three flow cytometers on the ship. Flow cytometry is often used in hospitals and medical settings to detect biomarkers – things like a protein or enzyme that might indicate someone has a disease. On the ship, scientists use flow cytometers in a similar way. They can look for biomarkers of infection, but rather than human patients, they’re looking for things that signal a viral infection of Ehux.

Filipa and glider (photo by Kay Bidle)

Filipa Carvalho is a graduate student from Rutgers as well. On board, she was helping maintain and launch the gliders – two torpedo like instruments that swim around the ocean (okay, they don’t really swim — they are propelled) and take measurements. Gliders are becoming increasingly useful to oceanographers, as they become more autonomous and can travel further and farther on their own.

Liti is probably blaming Chris for something. Benjamin is probably instigating. They're all a happy family.

Liti Haramaty is a technician in Kay’s lab and the resident arts and crafts person on board. For the birthdays on board (4) she made little crowns from filters. For shrinking cup day, her cups were full of intricate patterns. There are glove balloons above her desk, and tie-died napkins all around her station. She also does science – growing and manipulating Ehux in incubations on board and observing the influence of different treatments, like temperature and light.

Liti is also involved in lots of things beyond the lab, including National Moth Week – a week honoring the butterfly’s much neglected relatives. They have events in almost every state on the country coming up, along with a few worldwide.

Christien and his microscopic friends.

Christien Laber comes from the midwest, and it’s pretty obvious – in a good way. He’s too quiet, nice, and patient to be from anywhere else. He’s also willing to explain (over, and over, and over again) the basic science behind his research. That’s pretty cool. Christien is in charge of the optical profiling floats here. There are two of them, and they travel up and down in the water, taking readings of the optical properties at each point – how the light is behaving, what’s reflecting it back, what’s absorbing it, that kind of thing. The idea is that if he can get a sense for which optical properties correlate with more or less Ehux, oceanographers could send out profilers beforehand to seek out and identify areas of high productivity. Coupled with satellite data, this could eliminate a lot of the guess work that cruises like ours have to endure of where to find Ehux.

Clara getting some sun.

Clara Loureiro is Ana Martin’s graduate student. We talked a little about her work in an earlier post about Ana, but more specifically, Clara is interested in bacteria that might be found in the ocean. She’s traveling along with Ana to help out on the cruise, since she has a lot of experience at sea. Once she gets to the U.S., she’ll be visiting Kay’s lab and the Rutgers department to see what they’re up to.

Brittany is the master of all filterers.

Brittany Schieler is a masters student in Kay’s lab. Originally from the Bronx, Brittany did her undergraduate degree at the University of Delware, where she worked on modeling fisheries. Now, she works on phytoplankton, and now spends long days in front of her filters, filtering. Her research on board looks at a specific gas, nitric oxide (NO, not to be confused with nitrous oxide, which is laughing gas), and how it might be involved in the infection of Ehux. No one really knows what the role the gas might play in signaling within the cell, or outside of it. Brittany is trying to find out.

Kim, incognito, sampling from the CTD.

Kim Thamatrakoln is another postdoc in Kay’s lab. Like Kay, she came from Scripps Institute of Oceanography to Rutgers, but Ehux isn’t really her organism. Normally, Kim studies diatoms, and the genetics behind their photosynthesis. She’s working with Benjamin on a project that takes CTD casts every two hours, to see whether different amounts of light from the sun trigger different genes within these phytoplankton.

Kim is also on board to help with the logistics, and make sure the day-to-day science within Kay’s group happens without a hitch – since Kay is spending much of his time organizing the broader cruise. And she’s good at that. Kim is a “getting things done” kind of person – she’s authoritative, organized and quick – which I guess happens when you’re the mother of two little kids.

Everyone, and me failing at the group-shot self-timer thing.

So, there you have it, the science team. At this point, I’m amazed no one has thrown anyone else (or me) overboard, and I think we might even arrive in Iceland with the full team intact.

During this trip, I’ll be answering your questions about the science, this ship, and life onboard. Want to know how we search for plankton, why we’re here, or what the food is like? Just ask me! And if you’re wondering how I got here, check out the groups that made this adventure possible: Mind Open Media and COSEE NOW.

Previously in this series:

All Aboard: how you can be a part of our research blog
You wanted to know: what are these phytoplankton?
You wanted to know: what am I bringing to sea?
Greetings from Ponta Delgada! We set sail tomorrow.
Steaming North: how the scientists are trying to find plankton
The superstar sensor: what is a CTD?
Status Update: Day 3 at the Cyclonic Eddy
You wanted to know: what is this virus that infects the phytoplankton (Part One)
You wanted to know: what is this virus that infects the phytoplankton (Part Two)
Plankton hunting: Part art, Part science
You wanted to know: what’s the food like on board?
Wildlife watch!
Jumborizing: a brief history of the R/V Knorr
On the importance of names. Or, “are we at the hump or the hole?”
Arts and crafts day on the Knorr
On the importance of names, part two. What’s the difference between a boat and a ship?
How to stay sane on a ship in the middle of the ocean
A graphical representation of the cruise so far
You wanted to know: who are these scientists? Introducing: Kay Bidle
You wanted to know: who are these scientists? Introducing: Jack DiTullio
You wanted to know: who are these scientists? Introducing: Marco Coolen
You wanted to know: who are these scientists? Introducing: Anna Martins
Water water everywhere: a flow chart guide to the science on board
You wanted to know: who are these scientists? Introducing: Assaf Vardi
You wanted to know: who are these scientists? Introducing: Ben Van Mooy (sort of)

Rose Eveleth About the Author: Rose Eveleth is a producer, designer, writer and animator based in Brooklyn. She's got a degree in ecology from U.C. San Diego, and a masters in journalism from NYU. Now, she makes sciencey stuff for places like The New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider and OnEarth. Follow on Twitter @roseveleth.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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