Julia Matheson - Bermuda Atlantic Time Series (BATS) Research Technician

Julia Matheson

Bermuda Atlantic Time Series (BATS) Research Technician at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS)

I am responsible for the HPLC analysis of phytoplankton pigments in BATS water samples collected from the Sargasso Sea , and am a core member of the seagoing BATS team, going out on the research vessel (R/V Atlantic Explorer) ~10 days per month. Read more here: http://www.bios.edu/research/projects/bats/.

I was born/grew up in: Brantford, ON, Canada

I now live in: St. George's, Bermuda

I completed my training/education at: Western University

Describe what you do at work.

My job is 60-70% HPLC analysis of water samples taken on research cruises to the BATS site. This means I am responsible for operating the high-performance liquid chromatography machine on a daily basis. This involves preparing samples using a vortex, centrifuge, solvents, and filtration. I then make up the reagents required to elucidate the pigments of interest and prepare the machine. Once everything is ready, I check the readout for each sample to ensure everything worked properly. I am also responsible for analyzing the data and entering the data into the system. My colleagues use MATLAB to generate the data set that is released for use by the general scientific community. When we go to sea, ship ops are 24 hours/day so it is a very productive voyage. We deploy the CTD that takes measurements of physical and biogeochemical ocean conditions and collects water samples.

When I was a student I enjoyed:

How does your job affect people’s lives?

Researchers are able to use our massive data set, extending all the way back to 1988 to study long term trends in open ocean conditions such as ocean acidification, warming, and carbon flux. It is imperative that long term studies like BATS continue as a way of tracking these changes.

What motivates you in your career?

It is a great feeling to be involved in the entire process, from getting to go out onto the ship and take water samples, bring them back to the lab to process them, analyze the data, and then ask questions about trends and correlations. We are able to work on independent research during any downtime that we can then present at conferences and/or publish in scientific journals. The job can involve a lot of international travel, as the ship goes from Bermuda to Puerto Rico once a year, and conferences can be anywhere in the world, which is also great.

When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:

Describe your career path to this career.

I left high school wanting to be a science teacher. After taking some teaching courses, I realized I wanted to stay involved in research and switch to Environmental Sciences. I loved geography, earth sciences, biology, and hydrology. In my fourth year I had a "mini-thesis" where I learned how to use HPLC to look at algal pigments from lake sediment cores in Kenya. From there I did a Masters in Biology looking at harmful marine algae. During my masters I took a course at BIOS in Bermuda. Following my Masters I did a 6 month internship at BIOS in the microbial observatory tracking lignin degradation by microbes. I was then offered a full-time position as an HPLC tech with BATS at BIOS.

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

Bermuda is an amazing spot to work. I am able to go out boating, wakeboarding, sailing, running, and hiking nearly year-round.

What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?

Contact either the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science (BIOS BATS) or Univeristy of Hawaii (HOTS) about summer courses, internships, or positions!

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