The new wave of oceanographers: Andrea Hay

PhD student working on in situ validation of altimetry measurements.

Andrea Hay got an undergraduate degree from the University of Tasmania, where she is now doing her PhD in association with CSIRO. She’ll take part in the Bass Strait, Southern Ocean (SOTS) and Great Barrier Reef (Davies Reef).

SWOT AdAC: What is your field of research and how did you choose it?

Andrea Hay: My field of research is the in-situ validation of altimetry measurements. I chose it by spending three years as a surveyor, walking over paddocks and train tracks and roads with a GPS and thinking about what gets my brain the most excited. I am not quite sure why altimetry validation got the tick of approval – perhaps because I would walk my dog down towards the beach looking over Bass Strait every morning, and was grabbed by the sheer audacity of not only trying to measure *all that water* with a RADAR in SPACE, but then to measure it in-situ as well!! With all the waves, and tides, and currents, and changes in gravity, and density, and circulation and on and on and on – it’s amazing we get sub-meter accuracy, and here we are talking about the centimeter level. Isn’t that just wild?!!

SWOT AdAC: How is it related to SWOT?

AH: I feel lucky in that my work is directly related to SWOT, as I will be contributing to the validation of SWOT measurements!

SWOT AdAC: What do you find exciting about SWOT and the Bass Strait campaign and how will you contribute to it?

AH: The Bass Strait validation site has been gearing up to provide valuable data during (and beyond) the SWOT fast sampling phase, and so it is very exciting to be part of the team working on this right now! In addition to the long-term facility in Bass Strait, I am excited to see the data from our Southern Ocean mooring and from the Great Barrier Reef, as this will give us quite a diverse dataset to work with when we get to dive into the SWOT comparisons. I will be contributing to the campaigns by helping with some instrument deployments, and processing a lot of GNSS data, and then comparing our in-situ measurements to the SWOT observations. 

SWOT AdAC: What are your plans after the Bass Strait campaign?

AH: My main plans directly after the campaign are to publish our findings and complete my PhD! After that… I think ‘plans’ is too strong a word for the post-PhD period. I suppose I would like to continue contributing what I can, where I am able to. Which is pretty non-committal isn’t it… What I tell people, if they ask, is that “I’ll do a post-doc if there are any sufficiently interesting ones that will have me!”, but I have no idea what ‘sufficient’ looks like for my future self, and it will be another couple of years before I can make any guesses at my value to any institution as a researcher. So ‘plans’ are a bit tricky. There are some things I am sure I would like to do though. I would like to become more and more sensitized to the absurdity of the myths about ‘eternal economic growth’ and ‘nature-as-resource’ that our consumer driven society seems to be built on. I would like to find ways to question, resist, and go against these – to throw my tiny weight towards recognizing that ‘ecosystems’ and ‘nature’ are not something we are separate from, but something we are made of. That, of course, our sick and sickening societies cannot be healed while our planet continues to be degraded by them. I think any plan that aims at anything less than contributing towards deep cultural change is not ambitious enough. I’m not sure how to do that yet… (aside from the non-negligible nudges offered through poetry). Do get in touch with me if you have any ideas! Perhaps SWOT, offering this chance at a deeper understanding of our ocean, could also spark some deeper appreciation for it…