JC010: Mud volcanoes and submarine canyons


Meet...Sarah Murty, PhD student

Sarah is on this research cruise because she needs to carry out some experiments to gather information for her PhD. She is on both leg 2 and leg 3 of the cruise.

The aim of her PhD is to work out how we can assess man’s impact on deep sea organisms (invertebrates in particular). She has planned an experiment which will be repeated in different areas of the canyons that are being researched. She is using a set of respiration chambers (see photo below) that measure the amount of oxygen used by an animal such as a starfish or brittle star. This experiment could be carried out anywhere that starfish or brittle stars are found, but it must be used with the ROV, as the animals need to be caught and put into the chambers, and the chambers must then be sealed to ensure that the amount of oxygen in the water can be measured. This is the first time that this current design of chamber has been used to study organisms in the deep sea.   

Sarah is in the 2nd year of her PhD in deep sea biology. Before beginning this she did an MSc in Oceanography at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. The MSc Oceanography course is seen as a conversion course for people with science degrees that are interested in progressing with a career in Oceanography, but who might not have appropriate qualifications at that time. When at University, Sarah studied for a degree in Natural Sciences (Zoology), but knew that she always wanted to study marine (sea) organisms.  The Masters course that Sarah took really inspired her to continue her studies in the field of deep sea biology.

Sarah proudly showing off her respiration chambers, which are placed on the seafloor
to see how much oxygen is used by various animals

This hadn’t always been Sarah’s plan though. Having completed her degree, she found it difficult to find a job at first and ended up temping for 9 months. As part of this, she ended up working as a tax accountant with a company called Arthur Andersen and then Deloitte and Touche. Companies such as these big multinationals will employ people with a degree in any background, but look for other skills that they want in their staff. Sarah worked in tax for 5 years in the end, and enjoyed her work. She wanted to leave London though, and still had hopes of one day doing deep sea biology. Having seen an advertisement for the MSc Oceanography course, she leapt at the chance and moved to Southampton to follow her dream.

I asked Sarah about where she sees herself in the future, she says that she doesn’t think it’s based in academia (working in universities to carry out more research, and perhaps teach other people who want to learn about oceanography/deep sea biology). She would like to combine the business skills that she learned at Deloitte, with the knowledge and skills gained from her masters and PhD, perhaps working with the UK government to advise on policies about the environment.

Sarah says that if all else fails, she’s quite happy to be a rock star or international supermodel. She’s not picky really!

Sarah has been a real help to me on this cruise, she has shared her work and allowed me to follow her around when I’ve been at a loose end. Sarah introduced me to lots of the crew and staff, and has been very patient with my endless questions of, “…but what’s a …”, “How does that work?” and “Why?”.



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