A research cruise is quite an operation. Speaking as someone who is fairly new to oceanographic field research, it is amazing how much planning, coordination, logistics, and manhours were necessary to fill the Kilo Moana with scientists and equipment to get us all out to sea for a ten days of research. Training to carry out this sort of planning is not something you typically get early in your career (if ever). As scientists, even early-career scientists, we’ve all become pretty skillful at asking relevant and important scientific questions. How we answer those questions is a whole different story. The ocean is big, dynamic, and complicated. Many of the most important questions we have about our oceans’ function and health cannot be studied remotely. The answer? Conduct field research on a cruise. The only problem is that proposing, planning, and implementing a research cruise is far from simple.
In general, research takes a lot of planning. Ideally, your preparation will help ensure that your efforts test your scientific hypotheses and yield valuable new scientific knowledge. I typically work in a lab. Planning experiments takes a lot of work and consideration. Planning a research cruise takes this to a whole new level. Not only must you plan your own sampling and measurements, but you also must decide what kind of ship best suits your science needs, when and where to go to answer your hypotheses, coordinate the science plans of the other scientists, and logistically determine how everything will be safely managed on board. And we haven’t even considered the ship yet. Who will crew your vessel while you conduct your research? What kind of cables, winches, cranes, and other ship-board equipment will you need? What is the safest way to deploy that new instrument you just acquired? Luckily, the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) is there to handle the bulk of the actual ship management, but training young scientists on how best to manage these resources is still important to ensure their effective use in future oceanographic research.
This training cruise is meant to do just that. Myself and the other participants are getting a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into cruise planning and management so that we can lead future research at sea. This cruise has already been an invaluable experience and it is hard to imagine taking on the role of a chief scientist aboard a research vessel without this exposure. As oceanographers and marine scientists, we are incredibly lucky to have these scientific facilities available to our research and experiences like this will help ensure we know how to use them!