I had always imagined that a life of jet-setting would be fabulous. Indeed, the travel that I have been able to do while being a student would make even the most hardened adventurer a little green….Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Catalina, Antarctica, Amsterdam and Hobart. Yes Hobart. I love Hobart for this is where my people are. It may come as a surprise, but if you believe the rumours there are more marine scientists per capita in Hobart than anywhere else in the world. This is no wonder if you consider that for a relatively small population the University of Tasmania is here, as is the CSIRO’s Marine and Atmosphere headquarters, along with the Australian Antarctic Division. That’s right, these are my people. As it happens I need to spend a lot of time here as one of the pieces of equipment integral to the success of my PhD is located here. No one bothered to tell me what a pain in the coral archive it is to have your instrument interstate, but at least I have the chance to get to know the city my husband (also a marine scientist) and I may very well live and work in.
As a result I spend a lot of my time in airports, drinking over-priced coffee and trying to remember where I put my boarding pass and whether I remembered my toothbrush. This latest trip is to gather data that I will present at the Deep-Sea Coral Symposium in Amsterdam in a few weeks (if you click on the link I’m the 10:45 slot, who wouldn’t want to listen to that talk ?!). I head back to Canberra with just enough time to see my husband, put together a ground-breaking talk, wash my socks and then head to the airport again. The analysis that I perform is much like what you would see in CSI, or Bones, or one of the plethora of unrealistic crime dramas that are currently available to rot your mind on the telly. Rather than taking a speck of dust and having the answer to my question in 30 seconds I spend days in the lab chemically preparing my samples before putting them on the instrument, only to discover we are having analytical difficulties, and we will get the data……..after some tinkering……which may take days……..or months if you are really unlucky.
The work is also dangerous let me tell you. Yesterday I arrived early in the lab to discuss with my supervisor the data from the previous night’s run. Being an entirely ‘end-user’ friendly organization there is one of those silly ergonomic chairs at the instrument; the ones where you basically sit on a low stool and hook your legs underneath? Anyway, whilst trying to point over the screen to the file I wanted opened I managed to lose balance and be catapulted onto the table where I almost ruptured my spleen, or so it felt like. I don’t think this is the way to impress your superiors. Sure I’m smart enough to use your million dollar instrument, I’m just not smart enough to use a chair. Clearly, I am trying to achieve some sort of self-propelled flight that would mean I can avoid yet another delay in Hobart’s tiny, yet fully functional, airport. However as it was a slightly unsuccessful first test flight, I think I’ll just head to the airport on Wednesday morning.