I'll be in the chemistry lab. But you always make sure you get a chance to get a tour of the engine rooms. You get to know the ship's engineers and the crew and the people who work on the ship. I like that part of working at sea. It's not just working with other scientists. Working with the officers and engineers and the crew on any research ship is always really interesting.
These people often have very interesting stories to tell. They've got a lot of experience.
Why do you need scientists on board?
We have to give some input into the coring locations. So there'll be scientists on board who are sedimentologists, who really understand the way these ocean sediments have accumulated and know the places we should go to, to get the best, longest-term, most undisturbed records of sedimentation.
Would that not be mapped out already?
There's quite a lot of information already but at the time of the expedition they need to pinpoint the exact site where they want to take the cores from.
Then there's a whole team of scientists on board because the JOIDES Resolution is extremely well equipped. It's not just a drillship. It also contains a suite of laboratories.
So there's a well equipped chemistry laboratory I'll be working in on board that contains similar equipment to what we have here in Glasgow, including even some of the high-end analytical equipment – gas chromatographs, mass spectrometers.
So one of the things I'll be doing on board is taking subsamples from these long drill cores as they come up, and doing some initial analysis in the lab on-board, to make sure that the biomarkers – these molecular fossils I'm interested in – are preserved in the sediments, and to give feedback to the scientific chiefs on the levels of preservation at a particular core site.
Or it might be that we take up a core and the sediments at that the site have not preserved the organic material we're interested in very well, and it might be that there is an alternative site 100 miles away and we go and drill that site instead, because I've been able to give feedback straight away on the quality of the sediments.