Cris Florindo-Lopez: How did I become involved in Ocean Sciences?

When I look back in time, the pathway I followed to this point seems unavoidable, as if it had been a clear and unique choice. It was, nonetheless, small and blind steps what determined that track. I guess I was just following what I found thrilling and I was never sure where it would take me. In fact, it still remains the same and I started believing it will always be that way.

As a kid I always enjoyed all kinds of challenges and adventures. I actually wanted to be an explorer of some sort; sometimes a traveller to the most remote and unknown places on Earth, or sometimes an astronaut (to be fair I would still love it). However it all seemed already explored; the whole land was mapped, the highest mountains had been climbed and people were about to start living in a station orbiting the planet. So what else was still there to discover?

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Spending as much time as possible inside the water is now nearly a way of living.

 I soon discovered Jacques Cousteau and all the mysteries of the sea, how was it possible we knew so little about the oceans? At that point it was done; I wanted to do marine sciences. It was a few years later when I then left everything behind and moved to the Canary Islands for university. Cris 2

My earlier days handling sampling bottles and some other instrumentation to measure the ocean’s properties, as part of my degree’s practicals.

Those were great times with great opportunities. Besides the great weather and the excellent degree, I could spend all year long inside the water. I had the chance to take a scientific SCUBA diving module and also to spend an exchange year in Hawai’i (where surfing was included as a university module). I was hopelessly hooked to the marine sciences.

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In my exchange year in Hawaii I got to see a lot of wild life. As part of the program I volunteered in a marine turtle tagging and monitoring project.

 At first, I had a naïve view of the degree: dolphins, whales and turtles. However I was soon introduced to physical oceanography. I learned that oceans are not a “mixed soup”; they are, instead, a very dynamic system. I was shocked by how with very little measurements you could track back Antarctic water, for instance, on the other side of the planet.

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My degree allowed me to visit some wonderful places on Earth, like the Kilauea’s lava flow in Hawaii.

 My interests brought me through that branch of the marine sciences, and during my degree I had the chance to go on a research cruise for ten days. It was then when everything I liked merged together: the adventurous fieldwork, the challenging science of the ocean and the oceanographic instrumentation that allows us to carry our sampling. I then decided I wanted to keep on doing so.

After my degree I managed to get into another cruise, this time run by the NOC and crossing the Atlantic Ocean during 40 days. It was a great experience; we were recovering instruments that had been sampling the ocean for a year and then we deployed them back for another year. Then we used those measurements to understand how the oceans work.

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Early in the morning on the cruise, preparing some of the instruments that were to be deployed later that day.

 On that cruise, I met some PhDs and researchers based at the NOC. They explained me all the science done at the institution and how many other cruises there are every year. After that cruise, as I did an internship in the Marine Sciences Institute of Barcelona, I decided to apply for a PhD.

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So many instruments! So much data! That control room on the ship allowed us to check and control many of the instruments during the cruise.

 When I started browsing the advertised projects, it took me at least a couple of weeks to decide which one to apply for! There were too many interesting choices. In the end, perhaps prompted by the stories of the race to the poles, I applied for a project studying the rapidly changing Arctic Ocean.

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After sampling cold water from the bottom of the Atlantic, we prepared the bottles and instruments for the following cast.

 With my project I do not necessarily have to go out on cruises, but yet again fieldwork is one of my main motivations. In fact, I will spend next Christmas cruising down to Antarctica and spending a few days at a base there. I can’t wait for it!

If I would had been asked a few years ago where I saw myself after a few years, I wouldn’t have guessed it. But here I am after a few years, not very sure of where I will go next but doing what I wanted to do as a kid: going out on adventures and trying to solve some challenging unknowns.

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