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February 6, 2018

Dispatch: Even the coolest jobs have homework

Underwater exploration may sound fun, but it's a lot of work too. Just ask these Oceana scientists.
OCEANA/ Juan Cuetos


Adventure isn’t always glamorous. The hustle never ends, especially for scientists at sea. Here, researchers Jorge Blanco and Silvia García spend the evening working on their computers, aboard the vessel Neptune, on Oceana’s North Sea Expedition in August 2017.

Oceana scientists spent two months at sea last summer. They explored 15 seafloor habitats off Denmark, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom using a diving robot called a “remote operated vehicle,” or ROV. Cameras on the robot were connected to the Neptune by cables, feeding into the dry lab of the ship, pictured above. The darkened computer screens to the right lit up while the ROV was working, with video of the seafloor captured by the robot.

On this night, García was probably reviewing plans for the next day, she said, or identifying species caught on camera that afternoon. Beside her, Blanco was likely reviewing data on the topography of the seafloor to identify the best research spots.

The 15 sites that Neptune visited were candidate locations for new marine protected areas. Back on land after summer, Oceana scientists are combing through the footage to identify fish and invertebrates filmed in a variety of habitats. Their findings will support proposals for new marine protections in the area.

Sure, Oceana expeditions are full of high tech thrills. But the work can be tedious too. Even for adventurers exploring the depths of the North Sea, there’s no escaping long hours, night work and the glow of a computer screen.