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Photo:  Laura on a DEEPEND cruise

 

I went on the very first DEEPEND cruise. I was in the second year of my PhD and I couldn’t believe my advisor, Dr. Heather Bracken-Grissom, was sending me to initialize collection protocols for the crustacean genetics portion of the proposed research. Because research cruises are the best (only) means of collecting our target specimens, they are very important. Moreover, every cruise is an opportunity to collect for multiple projects. When I went out that first time, I was collecting for five or six research projects…it was a lot of pressure.

Since then, the DEEPEND cruises have been a staple of my graduate school career. I’ve been on five of the six cruises. It’s difficult to describe what these cruises are like: a flurry of collection activity, a sleep-deprived science bender, a two-week oceanic boot camp. They are challenging and rewarding and they shape what sorts of questions DEEPEND can ask and address. Over the course of these cruises, I’ve collected thousands of specimens and used them to illuminate the connections between the midwater Gulf and the Atlantic.

Last month, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation. In the days preceding the event, many DEEPEND scientists reached out to wish me luck. And along with all the concrete, quantifiable benefits of these research cruises, these communications emphasized again the myriad qualitative benefits: I’m a better scientist for having been a part of DEEPEND. On that first cruise I was a slightly under-prepared, over-eager graduate student on a ship full of experienced researchers and scientists who immediately supported and accepted me as one of them. They encouraged me and offered me a place at their table. The collaborations and relationships established on these cruises will last my entire professional career.

One month before this cruise left dock, I accepted an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado. One month after we return to dock, I’ll move to Denver and take up the position in the Computational Biosciences Department. The talk I gave during the application process was comprised entirely of my work with DEEPEND – a talk refined through rehearsals with DEEPEND scientists and GOMOSES presentations.

This post is getting a little longer than I intended, so I’ll end it the way I end most cruises: with gratitude. GOMRI, DEEPEND, FIU, R/V Point Sur, Dr. Bracken-Grissom, thank you. Thank you for letting me roll with you.

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Photos:  Laura hard at work during DEEPEND cruises.  So many crustaceans to identify and sample!