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VOCALS Postcard from the Field: Women at sea - Windows to the Universe

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    Image Courtesy of Paquita Zuidema

From: Dr. Paquita Zuidema
at sea, November 27, 2008

Women at sea

One of the remarkable features of the Ron Brown cruise was the high degree of female participation. The photo shows Sara Tucker and Catherine Hoyle (lidar and aerosol scientists respectively) performing what's called a CTD cast - in this case, a small, portable instrument is sent into the ocean to measure the water's conductivity and temperature at different depths; the conductivity is then used to figure out how salty the water is.

In addition to Sara and Catherine, a high-ranking female NOAA officer, a woman who had been chief mission scientist on a previous VOCALS cruise, and several female crew members and other scientists (including myself) were on board. Since the ocean sampling shown in the photo was a key part of the cruise, much of the daily decision-making about where the boat should go was done by an oceanographer who also happened to be female.

I say all these things because it was not so long ago, say about 40 years, when women were not always allowed to work on boats. That culture has begun to change. As more people with different outlooks become involved in the scientific process, more new ways of looking at our science may open up, to the benefit of all.

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