The year of a marine scientist is full of activities

The work of a marine scientist is varied. It can include, for example, taking samples, diving, processing samples, modelling or communicating about the results. All marine scientists share an interest in the sea and its activities.

The variety of marine research work is well illustrated by the number of different types of work that can fit into a single year. Below is an example of what a year in the life of a marine researcher might look like.

Samples are collected in summer

For many marine scientists, summer is the busiest time of all. At this time, some researchers work at sea, although they often just say that they are “in the field”. Samples can be collected over a period lasting several weeks. These working days are often long, especially if samples are collected by scuba diving. Before diving, the sampling equipment and diving gear must first be packed, so preparation can take many hours. Then the scientists need to take a boat ride to the sampling location. The time spent in the water itself is often short, and once the samples are collected, the researchers are already hurrying to the next sampling location. At the end of the day, the diving equipment needs to be washed while the samples are prepared for transportation and the laboratory.

When collecting samples out in the open sea, researchers may spend several weeks on the research vessel Aranda and only visit the land briefly during the weekends. Work is often done around the clock in different work shifts, to make the best use of all of the time spent at sea. This allows the research ship to visit as many sampling points as possible. The research and sampling equipment of the Aranda is specifically designed to take samples from the ship's deck.

A scientific diver holds a writing pad with waterproof paper, where she writes down obervations made during the dive.
A diver near Rönnskär Island in the Kvarken area.

Samples are processed in autumn

Samples collected in the summer are processed in the laboratory in the autumn. If a lot of samples have been collected, this laboratory phase can last throughout the whole winter. Plankton and bottom samples are examined under a microscope. Water samples, on the other hand, undergo chemical testing or analyses.

The work of a marine scientist is often very international. This means that they often work in cooperation with foreign researchers. In the autumn, there may be time for a short trip abroad to attend a conference, where researchers present and discuss their latest research findings. At the same time, scientists also look for new work partners, i.e. they make contacts with other marine researchers so that they may carry out new research plans and projects in the future.

Applying for research funding is also often an essential part of a scientist’s work and several funding applications open up particularly in the autumn. When researchers are making an application for funding, they think about their future research needs and make their plans. They then find project partners and together they submit funding applications for new research projects.

Results are analysed in winter

Once the samples have been processed and everything has been recorded, it is time to analyse the results. This is a really exciting step because it gives the researcher a more complete picture of what the results are really showing. A computer is needed in the analysis phase. Both mathematical and statistical skills are of great help in interpreting the results.

Winter is also a good time to become familiar with next summer's research. This is especially true if the scientist is planning a completely new sampling or research method, which requires reading the scientific literature and becoming familiar with previous research.

Some scientists even go to sea in winter! This is because the hull of the research ship Aranda has also been strengthened for exploration in icy seas.

Aranda kulkee jäissä.
The marine research vessel Aranda is also suitable for use during the winter.

Results are written and published in spring

In spring, when the last results from the previous summer's research have been analysed, it is time to prepare write them into a scientific article. Once a research article is approved for publication, the results can reach the entire scientific community. Surprisingly, much of a researcher's working time may be spent writing articles!

The results of Finnish monitoring programmes are published in Finnish. However, the common language of science is English. Therefore, it is good to have the results published in scientific journals in English also. This allows other marine scientists in the world to see the results. Therefore, a researcher needs to be able to write in English.

In spring, the scientist once again begins to prepare for the upcoming field season by getting new supplies and planning new experiments that will take place in the summer months.