Amazing live chat!
Shrewsbury High School (a long time ago), Durham University (2005-2008), Southampton University (2008-2009), Open University (2011-present)
BSc. MSc. (PhD- pending!)
Geosciences Advisory Unit
Favourite thing to do in my job: I love going out to sea and exploring to collect my samples. I have to go aboard a large ship for weeks at a time to collect mud from the bottom of the ocean!
I look at how climate change is affecting the biology of the oceans
There is more CO2 in the atmosphere today than there has been for the entire of human history. This CO2 dissolves in the ocean and reacts with ocean water to create a weak acid. This is called “Ocean Acidification” and it is particularly harmful to bugs in the ocean which build their homes out of calcium carbonate (the same thing as chalk and the white cliffs of Dover).
The microscopic bugs which I am looking at are called “Foraminifera” and they are very beautiful . They are also like time machines because they have existed for millions of years and are used by geologists to look at ancient climate change which happened when the dinosaurs lived. This is why I am using them to look at the recent past (the last 30 years) to see how they have been affected by the current climate change and ocean acidification which is happening today.
My Typical Day
Looking at beautiful bugs under the microscope, plotting graphs and meeting other scientists to talk about their discoveries
Every day is different for me and can vary based on what part of the project I am doing. Here’s a selection of some of the things I get up to:
Sometimes I go out to sea – anywhere from the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean to the sub-tropical Atlantic Ocean to collect sediment samples from the sea floor . My other samples are collected in a big cup called a “sediment trap“, suspended in the ocean water at ~1.5km depth. This cup collects all the dead stuff which falls from the surface of the ocean .
In the microscope lab I look at the dead bugs under the microscope and pick them out with a very fine paintbrush. I then measure the size and weight of the bugs using a computer program and this can tell me something about how happy these bugs were. The bigger the bug, the happier!
I crush my dead bugs so they can be cleaned with chemicals. When they are cleaned, I can measure the chemistry of their shells on a big machine and this can tell me something about the water where they lived and how acidic it was.
Eventually, when I get all my data off the machine, I then have to plot it in diagrams and write a story about what is happening based on what I see and what other scientists have seen. I will then try to publish my findings in a scientific magazine so they can be read by other scientists.
What I'd do with the prize money
I haven’t decided yet but I want you lot to give me some ideas
I am looking forward to speaking to you guys about science and I want to find out more about what you would like to know. I need your help to give me some ideas about the things that you think would help other kids learn about science. I will then take some of the best ideas and put them to the test!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Passionate, Inquisitive, Outdoorsy
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Sailed to the Arctic
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My biology teacher Mr. Brown and chemistry teacher Mrs. Day. Also my maths teacher said I was bad at maths and I wanted to prove her wrong.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes! I started a petition against the head teacher once to extend P.E. lessons. Our whole year got detention for signing it!!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
An explorer- science is also exploring so that’s good enough for me
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Too many to choose… but I think Beethoven was a bit of a rockstar
What's your favourite food?
The 3 C’s. Cheese, Chocolate, Curry
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Camped out on a glacier in Alaska
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To walk to the South Pole. To build my own eco-house in New Zealand. To become a mushroom scientist (mycologist)
Tell us a joke.
What do you call two dinosaurs that have been in an accident? Tyrannosaurus wrecks