Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Featured Scientist: Meet Giovanni!

Our annual surveys would not be possible without our wonderful collaborators from around the world. We'll dedicate several future blog posts to highlight these individuals, so that you can learn more about them, their research, and the valuable contributions they make to the survey. Today we feature Giovanni Seijo-Ellis from the University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez!

Giovanni successfully completes a 1500-meter CTD cast
Hi everyone! My name is Giovanni Seijo-Ellis, I'm a physics masters student at the University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez, and I'm starting my PhD next fall at the City University of New York's Graduate Center with Dr. David Lindo.

I always knew that I wanted to work on something related to the oceans and as I grew up that interest grew bigger. When I found out as a young teenager that there is a field called physical oceanography, I felt I was born for it. Back in Puerto Rico there are no undergraduate programs in oceanography, so I decided to go into Theoretical Physics, took some advanced oceanography courses and complemented it with atmospheric dynamics courses. I worked for three and a half years for the Puerto Rico Seismic Network doing tsunami simulations and hazard assessments under a National Tsunami Hazard and Mitigation Program grant. 

Ready to launch the XBT!
Then I moved to work with the Caribbean Coastal Ocean Observing System (CariCOOS), the Caribbean Component of NOAA's Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). There I work as an ocean modeler. I basically work with validation and development of ocean models for the Caribbean region in order to have better forecasts of ocean currents and I also prepare some operational products for the CariCOOS webpage users. Besides that, I also do storm surge simulation and mapping with special focus on energy distribution over coral reefs along the northern and eastern part of Puerto Rico. Every now and then I help in CariCOOS field work (which is probably my favorite thing to do), deploying CTDs, and deploying/recovering sea gliders or anything else that comes up. 

One of the homemade biodegradable
CariCOOS drifters
I met Dr. Lindo some months ago and we quickly noticed that we had many research interests in common, so I decided to apply to CUNY's Earth and Environmental Sciences program where we could work together and I could reach my goal of getting a PhD. A couple of weeks after, he called me to see if I was interested in participating on a research cruise...of course I was interested!!!! Our goal is to understand the cross-shelf exchange of waters between St. Thomas and St. Croix. Ocean circulation/currents in the Caribbean is not as easy to understand as one may think. The rapid variation of the bathymetry has a huge effect on ocean currents and waves which makes it a challenge to model accurately and many mesoscale features are also common in this region. So, does water from south of the shelf break cross to the shallower part north of the shelf break? Or does it move along the shelf break? Or do the shallow water cross into the deeper waters? How does this affect larval dispersal in the region? 

These are some of the questions that will help us understand what is happening in this part of the Caribbean and how it affects larval dispersal near the shelf break, especially on the Grammanik and Hind Banks. To accomplish this we will use data obtained from 8 SVP drifters, 4 Bio-degradable drifters (home-made by CariCOOS), 22 XBT launches, and CTD deployments. The use of plankton nets will allow us to collect fish larvae at different water depths and potentially trace back to their place of origin. 

It's away! Positioning the XBT launcher during deployment
So here I am, learning a lot and enjoying every second. So far it has been an amazing experience, the crew and the science team are wonderful. Everyone on the science team is just great, they are really open to hear any suggestions and really care for everyone to learn how to do everything around here. Doesn't matter if you're an undergrad or graduate student, with or without experience in the field, here you are a scientist and will be treated as one. We are all equal, and that makes it really comfortable for such a diverse group to work together successfully. 

While not working, I really enjoy sailing either on a Catalina 30 sailboat, racing on a J30 or J24 or just relaxing near a pond and sail my radio control sailboat. I also do cross-country mountain biking and ride my MTB to work at least once a week. I really hope and look forward to be able to come back on board the Nancy Foster with this amazing team in years to come!


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