The new wave of oceanographers: Caroline Comby

PhD student in physical oceanography focusing on the issue of vertical velocity measurements in the context of fine-scale dynamics.

Caroline Comby is a PhD student studying ocean dynamic through fine-scale observation at the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography, Aix-Marseille University. She started her studies at the University of Perpignan Via Domitia (UPVD) and then joined AMU during her last year of undergraduate studies. Her PhD advisors are St├ęphanie Barrillon and Anne Petrenko.

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

Caroline Comby: My research field is the study of ocean dynamics through the observation of fine-scale processes. More specifically, my thesis work consists in solving the question of measuring vertical oceanic velocities in fine-scale processes by combining instrumental development, experiments at sea, the analysis of in situ data and modeling.

I chose this field of study as a continuation of my training as a physical oceanographer, motivated by my passion for field work and the challenge of developing new in situ measurement techniques. It was important for me to maintain a balance in my research between the theory of physical oceanic processes and the reality of the field.

SWOT-AdAC: What is the link between your research area and SWOT?

CC: The new SWOT satellite provides a very high-resolution view of the dynamics of surface currents, and such a resolution will allow us to characterize the vertical transport. My research work on direct in situ measurements of the vertical component of currents will complement the surface synoptic view provided by SWOT by adding localized observations at specific points in the ocean from the surface to the depths.

The application of my work during the BIOSWOT-Med campaign will allow to collect many data in order to be able, at first, to make an inter-comparison with the surface estimates from the satellite. The final objective is to obtain a 3D understanding of the ocean dynamics supporting vertical exchanges.

SWOT-AdAC: What excites you about SWOT and the BioSWOT-Med campaign?  How will you contribute to the it?

CC: What I find exciting is the international dimension offered by the SWOT orbit, with the gathering of many oceanographic researcher carrying out joint missions almost simultaneously on different parts of the ocean and seas of the world.

Moreover, the BIOSWOT-Med campaign emphasizes interdisciplinarity and will couple the study of physical processes with biological processes. I find it very interesting not to stop at understanding the dynamic processes from a purely physical point of view, but to consider the fine-scale circulation as a driver of planktonic biodiversity.

During the BIOSWOT-Med campaign, I will be responsible for the acquisition and analysis of vertical velocity measurements, which requires the use of several different sampling techniques and measuring instruments. More broadly, I will also participate in the acquisition of other current data. The analyses will be done in real time and will allow us to intervene in the sampling strategy by adapting the navigation plan of the mission if necessary.

SWOT-AdAC: What are your plans after the campaign?

CC: Immediately after the cruise, I will pool all the current data that collected during BIOSWOT-Med, in order to provide a global analysis of the hydrodynamic context of the mission. It turns out that this will represent the culmination of my research work since this campaign comes in my last year of PhD. My biggest project will be to transcribe the evolution and the conclusions of my work in the form of a thesis manuscript.