JC010: Mud volcanoes and submarine canyons


Meet...the Principal scientist

Professor Doug Masson is the co-Chair of Geology and Geophysics at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. He is employed by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), rather than Southampton University and works in cooperation with his University counterpart to run the Geology and Geophysics aspects of NOCS. He has been in academia the whole of his working life, working for NERC and its predecessor since gaining his PhD.

Doug Masson is, specifically, a marine geologist and is interested in the moving of sediments on the seafloor, how the sea floor forms and how the sea bed includes the benthic (sea floor dwelling) organisms that live on it. He is particularly interested in submarine landslides and turbidity currents. Doug has been working in marine geology for about 30 years and he has been on 50 research cruises!

On the RRS James Cook, Doug is responsible for the scientists on board. He must ensure that everyone has the opportunity to carry out experiments and tests to aid their work. This is easier said than done, as the ROV can take several hours to reach a key position, and many people’s work may have to be coordinated to collect information from that one site. Every morning, the Principal Scientist meets with the ship’s Master, Chief Engineer, Chief Technician or Technical Liaison Officer and Chief Officer to discuss the day’s plan and ensure that everyone on board knows what’s happening. It is important that this meeting happens, as the navigation of the ship will depend on the work being carried out, and the Master/Chief Officer can inform the Principal Scientist of any conditions that might affect the science taking place (e.g. bad weather, big waves…)

On this cruise he is interested in investigating how active the canyons are, at present, in transporting sediments. For this he will use a time-lapse camera with a currentmeter attached to sea how much the sea bed changes over the next two weeks.

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