July 03, 2014
What is your educational background? I am a Civil Engineer with a Master’s degree in Engineering from the National University of Colombia in Medellin, Colombia. Also, I obtained a Master’s and PhD degrees from Georgia Tech in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
Where are you from, and how does it compare/contrast to your current location? I am from Colombia. If I have to compare my home University to Georgia Tech, the first thing that I would say is that in Colombia we do not have as many international students as in Georgia Tech. I found it quite amazing to meet people from all around the word while at Georgia Tech. Now, if we compare the cities Medellin and Atlanta, where the National University of Colombia and Georgia Tech are located, then we see that these two cities are quite similar in size and population. Both offer permanent cultural activities and good food. Medellin is a Valley surrounded by beautiful mountains and the weather is perfect. Medellin is known as “City of Eternal Spring”. However, I have to admit that I enjoy the occasional snow day in Atlanta.
What aspects of your life, education, etc., led you to become a scientist and drew you to the research you are doing now? I had the fortune to attend a good public high school. I was a member of the math, biology and dance clubs. I guess everything started there. The professors that lead all those clubs invested their free time in us, and this experience was quite inspiring. I became interested in the ocean and in general in water resources during the last year of my bachelor’s degree. One of the last requirements for graduation in that program was an undergraduate thesis. We had to look for an advisor and a research topic. Therefore during my senior year I had to look for a good advisor, as I have always believed that this is an essential part to enjoying your research journey. My physics and fluid dynamics professors accepted me as their student and suggested I develop a program that predicts tides as my thesis, and here I am.
How did you become involved in ECOGIG? I was in my 3rd year as a graduate student at Georgia Teach when my research group became a part of the ECOGIG program.
What is your role and specific research in the ECOGIG project? Our group is in charge of the ocean modeling component in ECOGIG. Using a regional ocean model, I have worked on the predictability of the surface and deep circulation in the Gulf and the coral larvae transport and connectivity in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Have you been involved in other projects and if so, how does your experience working in the ECOGIG program compare with your other research experiences? ECOGIG is the first project that involves long field campaigns that I have been involved with. It is a huge opportunity for me because when at sea it allows me to work with all components of ECOGIG 24/7. You learn so much from all of them. At the end of those cruises you build a fun sea family from which you can learn about multicores, natural seeps, nutrients, zooplankton, and the list continues.
What is the history of your cruise participation, ECOGIG or otherwise? I have participated in four ECOGIG cruises. In all of them, I have been in charge of the CTD casts. I was responsible for the rosette setup, instrument deployment and recovery and CTD data post process.
What do you like most about working at sea? I would summarize the things that I like most working at sea in two categories. From the scientific point of view, I enjoy working with people that have different research questions about the same ocean that I use to model on a computer. Now, as a life experience, working at sea is quite a unique opportunity. I try to be on deck as long as possible waiting for the sunset, for dolphins, calling whales (It actually works!) or just enjoying the breeze.
What, if any, novel or unique findings have you had? I provided a first evaluation of the possibility of predicting the circulation at depth in the Gulf of Mexico, and I am now looking into understanding why different species of black coral –species with different genetic threats - can be found not too far apart in the northern Gulf.
What do you see as your major contributions to the ECOGIG program? The numerical model that we set-up for the Gulf of Mexico allow us to explore a variety of questions. We use a state-of-the-art nesting technique and we can ‘zoom’ into regions where we want to investigate transport processes. We can follow the evolution of natural or anthropogenic tracers from the bottom of the ocean to the surface with a great amount of detail.
Is there anything else you would like to say about your ECOGIG involvement and its effect on your science? Being part of a multidisciplinary group such as ECOGIG is without a doubt a wonderful experience for a graduate student (or a post doc). It taught me how multidisciplinary research of the highest quality is conducted and how scientists with very different interests and skills can all work together.