Life on the Ronald H. Brown as a First-time Field Scientist

Author: Jenna Lee

I first started doing undergraduate research in the Martiny Lab a few months ago, with Cathy as my graduate student advisor. The plan was for her to train me on particulate organic matter (POM) nutrient analysis so that I could continue to run tests when she left in the winter for the I07N research cruise. I never expected to end up on the cruise myself, but by some stroke of luck (lucky for me at least), the cruise was delayed until April and a space on board the Ronald H. Brown opened up.

The ship was scheduled to leave port from South Africa on April 23rd, but I wasn’t guaranteed a spot on the cruise until the last week of March. The few weeks leading up to departure were hectic for me to say the least. I had to book an international flight, get vaccines, and buy everything I’d need for the next couple months. On top of that, I had never been on a boat for more than a day until now! I didn’t even know if I would get seasick or not (I definitely did the first few days). It was all worth it in the end, though, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be out at sea right now.


For me, the hardest thing to adjust to was my schedule. Cathy and I each take 12 hour POM sampling shifts, and mine is from midnight to noon. It took a few days for me to get used to going to sleep at 2pm and waking up at 10pm, but now I love my shift. It’s peaceful late at night, the stars are absolutely gorgeous, and the time difference from California makes it perfect to use the on-board wifi to talk to friends and family back at home. And whenever I have trouble waking up, I make myself a delicious budget mocha (a cup of the world’s strongest coffee mixed with a packet of instant hot chocolate). Between hourly samples, there’s plenty of time to relax watch a sunrise, catch up on some reading, or work on schoolwork. I’m technically still enrolled in a research thesis course, so I have plenty of reading and writing to do.

It’s great how nice everyone is, too! I’m pretty shy, but the crew and scientists alike really made me feel like family. People have set up a ping-pong table and hammock in the main lab, my saved meals have cute drawings on them, and there are bingo and movie nights.

Talking to all these amazing, supportive, established scientists and other students on board has been inspiring. I can’t wait to continue my education and pursue a career in oceanography. Hopefully I’ll continue to have opportunities like this one!

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