Hi! I am Mirjam. We are investigating ocean currents in a 13-m-diameter swimming pool that sits on a merry-go-round. Ask me anything!

Mirjam Glessmer
Oct 18, 2017

I am a member of Elin Darelius’ team of scientists. We are investigating ocean currents near Antarctica — by doing scientific experiments in a 13-m-diameter rotating water tank in Grenoble, France. Ask me how experiments in water tanks can tell us something about ocean currents; how we usually observe ocean currents from ships; what it is like to work with an international team in a foreign country; how you become an ocean scientist; anything else you want to know! Looking forward to hearing from you! :-)


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How did you get the idea?

Oct 18, 4:37AM EDT0

I did not, I just joined the project because I loved the idea so much! :-)

The leader of this research project is Elin Darelius (https://skolelab.uib.no/blogg/darelius/2017/09/06/introducing-elin-darelius/), who has come up with the idea and assembled the team. I will ask her to chime in on this!

Oct 18, 4:51AM EDT0

Have you seen the AMA about an all female group studying Antarctica and the impact of global warming?

Oct 10, 11:34PM EDT0

No, I had not seen that yet, but I will check it out now, thanks for pointing me to it!

Oct 18, 3:22AM EDT0

How big is the influence of the moon on the water?

Oct 9, 5:00AM EDT0

The moon’s influence on ocean currents is probably not big, but it is large when you look at tides. Tides can, in some places, change the water level by up to 16 or so meters and back over the course of mere hours, repeating this twice a day. That is pretty impressive! But the height of tides does depend on many factors like for example the shape of the coast line, in the open ocean tides are only a couple of centimeters high.

Oct 18, 3:22AM EDT0

How did you get interested in ocean currents?

Oct 8, 11:13PM EDT0

When I had heard that the job “oceanographer” existed, I knew that that was what I wanted to be. I bought some journal that happened to have an article about the “great conveyor belt”, the oceanic circulation that spans the whole globe. I found it so incredibly fascinating that the ocean was behaving in such a way, and that we could even know that it did that! It’s not like you look at the ocean and see that the water floating past you has been all the way around the world in the last 1000 years already. So initially I was mainly fascinated by the challenge of figuring out how the ocean moves and by the adventures involved in going on research cruises.

Oct 18, 3:21AM EDT0

Do you test contamination in oceans and have you heard of the project that the teenagers did to clean up the oceans?

Oct 8, 12:04PM EDT0

Our research project does not test for contamination in the ocean. Research projects are always highly specialized, so even though we spend time at sea, we unfortunately usually don’t have the equipment and expertise on board to measure everything that might be interesting and relevant.

I did hear about that teenager with the floating plastic collection thingy, is that the one you mean? I am actually not convinced that is a good idea, I think he is very much underestimating the force of the ocean, and the device designed to solve the plastic pollution problem will very likely become part of the problem itself after the first storm smashed it to pieces.

Oct 18, 3:20AM EDT0

I live in an area where people want to destroy mangroves in order to build ocean front housing. Do oceanographers also research the impact of coastal areas and how plants can protect the land from the ocean?

Oct 5, 11:57PM EDT0

Yes, there are many research groups that do research for example on how roots of mangroves or sea weeds keep erosion at bay. What are you specifically interested in? Would you like me to point you towards examples of that kind of research?

Oct 18, 3:19AM EDT0

Can you take preventative measurements against natural disasters when it comes to oceanography?

Oct 5, 4:34AM EDT0

I am not sure I correctly understand your question. You can protect the coast to some degree, by building dikes etc, and by making sure that houses are built at safe distances from the water. But there is no way to make sure that natural disasters like earth quakes that cause tsunamis cannot happen. They will happen, so the important thing is to understand what is the worst thing that can happen, and how can we protect ourselves in such a way that it will cause the least harm possible. For example there are now many tsunami warning systems in place that weren’t there when the 2004 tsunami hit.

There are groups that investigate if there might be ways to engineer ways to stop hurricanes http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/10/hurricane-geoengineering-climate-change-environment/ but at the moment those technologies are still very new and haven’t been proven to work yet, and it is not sure whether they ever will.

Does that answer your question? Or what would you like to know?

Oct 18, 3:18AM EDT0

What made you want to be an ocean scientist?

Oct 5, 4:20AM EDT0

I have just always loved water, water sports, watching water, you name it. The moment I knew there was such a job as “oceanographer”, there was not a question in my mind that that was what I wanted to do :-)

Oct 18, 3:14AM EDT0

How big is the impact of the earthquakes that happened in Mexico recently and what implications does it have on the ocean or does it not affect the ocean?

Oct 4, 10:37PM EDT0

Do you investigate the impacts of hurricanes and other natural disasters on the ocean currents?

Oct 3, 10:25PM EDT0

We don’t investigate those in this research project, but there are many other research groups that do. There are even groups that investigate if there might be ways to engineer ways to stop hurricanes: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/10/hurricane-geoengineering-climate-change-environment/

Oct 18, 3:14AM EDT0

Is there a lot of travel involved and what countries have you been to so far?

Oct 3, 6:45AM EDT0

Yes, since oceanography is a very international field, there is a lot of travel involved to get to conferences, to visit other research groups, to board ships in foreign ports to go on research cruises. I personally have been to most of Europe, to the US, to some African countries. And I have lived in several European countries during my studies and for work. It’s a great job if you enjoy traveling!

Oct 18, 3:13AM EDT0

Can you tell me more about the project of ocean currents and how you can investigate them in a pool?

Oct 3, 2:08AM EDT0

Yes, I can! In fact, there is so so much to tell that I would like to point you to our blog, rather than typing out a novel here:


We report daily from the lab on that blog. But if you have any more questions please get back to me and I’d be happy to answer them!

Oct 18, 3:12AM EDT0

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Oct 2, 6:30PM EDT0

I personally love learning about what makes the ocean move. There is such an enormous amount of water – crossing the Atlantic Ocean by ship still takes almost a week, and during all that time we’ve only seen the surface and only a very narrow track. And all this water is moving and we can figure out why! Not only the waves on the surface, or the tides, but also phenomena like El Nino, or global ocean currents that take one water parcel around the world in 1000 years until it has returned to where it started out. This is extremely fascinating to me. I tremendously enjoy being at sea or here in Grenoble at the tank (read more about that on our blog here: https://skolelab.uib.no/blogg/darelius/) or in a lab, figuring out what is going on in the ocean. And doing science communication, talking to people, writing blogs, showing movies, coming up with new ideas how to get other people interested in the ocean, is great fun and I actually do it in my free time, too, because I enjoy it so much.

Oct 18, 3:10AM EDT0

What is your usual workplace, do you work in an office or are you onboard ships doing research and collecting data?

Oct 1, 2:21PM EDT0

We spend most of our time in an office, analysing data. Even though we do go to sea a lot and sometimes spend several months per year on research ships, the larger part of our jobs is to sit in front of a computer, make sense of the data we measured, and find ways to convey the information through graphics or texts. Science get published in highly specialized journals, so writing articles about our results is a very long process, involving many rounds of revisions.

Right now, we are in Grenoble, working on a rotating tank to study ocean currents. Here is what a typical day looks like for us: https://skolelab.uib.no/blogg/darelius/2017/10/18/what-a-day-in-the-coriolis-lab-looks-like/

Oct 18, 3:06AM EDT0

What is it exactly that you investigate and why?

Oct 1, 11:37AM EDT0

The ice shelves fringing the Antarctic continent are melting at an accelerating rate. Most of the melt happens from below, as warm ocean currents eat away the undersides of the ice. We are investigating why and how exactly this is happening. You can find out more about our experiments and our team on our blog: https://skolelab.uib.no/blogg/darelius or ask me a question on here. What exactly would you like to know more about?

Oct 18, 2:49AM EDT0

What pre requisites do you need to have and what do you need to study to become an oceanographer?

Oct 1, 12:21AM EDT0

There are many ways to become an oceanographer. Most countries have universities in which you can study oceanography, ocean sciences, earth sciences, climate sciences, marine biology, marine geology, or other programs focussing on the ocean. Depending on whether you are interested in ocean physics, biology, chemistry, geology, you might want to choose different programs. However, there are many oceanographers that didn’t study to become oceanographers but that transitioned into oceanography from other fields of study, often physics, computer sciences or mathematics.

But there are ways to become an oceanographer that don’t involve studying at university, too: On research ships you need sailors, engineers, technicians, cooks, people working in many different fields. Yet they all contribute to gaining new knowledge about the ocean. Oceanography could not be done by the people who studied it at university alone, it is a team effort of many different people with very diverse backgrounds.

Oct 18, 2:48AM EDT0

What is the purpose of your experiements? Will it give us any answers about global warming?

Sep 27, 12:59PM EDT0

We are looking at the ice shelves fringing the Antarctic continent, which are melting at an accelerating rate. Most of the melt happens from below, as warm ocean currents eat away the undersides of the ice. We want to understand how exactly this happens. The faster melting is very likely connected to global warming, and as we understand the processes involved, we will be able to predict in what way that connection will develop in the future and whether there are feedback mechanisms at play. Read more about our experiments on our blog: https://skolelab.uib.no/blogg/darelius

What answers about global warming are you looking for specifically?

Oct 18, 2:36AM EDT0

Do you have a diverse team from all over the world? Is inclusiveness and diversity really important for innovation breakthroughs? 

Sep 21, 11:55AM EDT0

Yes, I believe it is important to include people with different backgrounds and experiences in a team in order to make sure that the issue at hand is looked at from different perspectives. That will always get a better result than if the team working on a problem is too homogeneous, because members of that team are likely to have the same blind spots and prejudices.

In our team in Grenoble, right now there are people from Europe and Asia. But we work with people from all over the world, by meeting them at conferences, reading their publications, collaborating on research cruises, going for research visits to other institutions, moving to foreign countries for work. You can find out more about our experiments and our team on our blog: https://skolelab.uib.no/blogg/darelius

Also, if you want to work with the best people to solve a problem, it often just so happens that you have to find them in many different places from all around the world.

Oct 18, 2:38AM EDT0

Will you eventually be able to go to antarctica for research?

Sep 21, 9:20AM EDT0

I personally have not been to Antarctica and I don’t know if I will get to go, there is nothing planned at this stage (But I definitely hope I will get to go some day!). But many members of our team have already been, for example Elin and Céline. Both of them have written about their experiences: Elin’s blog from 2016: https://skolelab.uib.no/blogg/antarktis/category/blog/ and Céline from several research cruises: https://polarfever.com

You should have a look at those blogs, lots of interesting stories from great adventures over there!

Oct 18, 2:39AM EDT0

What kind of information do ocean currents give us?

Sep 20, 10:19PM EDT0

Knowledge about ocean currents helps us understand how heat gets transported from one place to another, leading to much warmer temperatures in Europe than in North America at the same latitude, for example. Ocean temperatures also influence draughts, rainfall and hurricanes, for example. Ocean currents also transport nutrients that plankton live on, and only areas in which plankton grows will also have a lot of fish, which are in return important for our fisheries. Ocean currents also transport pollutants: oil from ship wrecks, nuclear waste from the Fukushima disaster, etc.. And when you find a message in a bottle, ocean currents will have transported it to the beach where you found it. So depending on what you are interested in, ocean currents can help you understand many different issues.

And then ocean currents are also interesting in themselves. Isn’t it fascinating that such enormous amounts of waters as are filling the huge ocean basins can be moving at all, and in pattern that we can understand when we look at the influence of winds or heating by the sun?

Oct 18, 2:47AM EDT0
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