By Marina Fennell
Man, the time flew by! I’ve been home a week already and still have tasks that I am catching up with, including this blog post. I was just having too much fun with all the new people I met as a part of my research exchange.
I visited Halifax, Nova Scotia, which lies 166.3 miles due east of the eastern tip of Maine. Not north, but east. To that end, it felt very much like my visits to the east coast of the U.S. English is the primary language spoken, and it only sounded like Canadian English when those with stronger accents pronounced ‘out’ or ‘about’ (ooot or aboooot). I often joked that my international exchange location was so exotic as to let me use the same cell phone plan as I have in the U.S. (thanks AT&T).
Similarities aside, I was in a foreign country. I did not open a Canadian bank account while I was there, so I relied on cash much more than I do in my normal life. Canadian cash is very pretty, too! New and plasticy with different colors for each bill and big one- and two-dollar coins that are used often. Fun fact: Canada is still a part of the British monarchy, so coins with Queen Elizabeth on them were advertised in the banks and post offices to commemorate her passing.
Another hint that the British monarchy is still active in the region, is that the local yacht club is called the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron (RNSYS). I learned that a yacht club can only be called ‘royal’ if a member of the monarchy has agreed to become its Patron. In this case it was His Royal Highness Albert Edward, the Prince of Whales, later King Edward VII when a regatta was held there in his honor in 1860. I had the pleasure of sailing with their Wednesday night casual race series while I was there. I actively race sailboats during the summer back in California, and with the gorgeous scenery there on the water I couldn’t imagine staying on dry land for the entire length of my stay. So, I walked the docks and found a boat that needed an extra hand onboard. True to Canadian stereotype, they welcomed me warmly and even let me sail with them in the prestigious Chester Race Week.
I also got the chance to get on the water for a scientific research cruise. The lab that I was visiting is led by Doug Wallace, who is supported by the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) funding program and calls his lab the CERC.OCEAN lab. The CERC.OCEAN team is at the forefront of marine sensor technologies. One of the goals for my visit was for me to see and experience for myself how ocean measurements are made. Back at my home institute there is not a lab doing all the types of measurements that I use in my computer-based work so I would not have gotten this opportunity if it were not for the LOREX program.
As I said above, the time absolutely flew by. One of the reasons for that was the expanded scientific community I now had access to. The CERC.OCEAN lab itself consists of such a diversity of backgrounds (academically and demographically) that there was always something new for me to learn at the weekly lab meetings as well as just passing by offices. They, in turn, introduced me to their relevant colleagues which helped shift our scientific questions to make more sense to the current interests of the chemical oceanography field. This led to a few extra meetings the last two weeks of my visit, both because the end of my visit crept up on us plus we shifted directions about two weeks out and wanted to get enough down on paper before I left.
I’m busy back at home now getting new plots updated so we can work towards a paper. As I said above, I am not a lab-based scientist so thankfully I did not have to worry about bringing samples back with me. What I brought back with me were the relevant data, many more scientific connections, and better understanding of just how complex the process is to go from a sample of ocean water to a pH measurement, an alkalinity measurement, or a total carbon measurement. I look forward to seeing many of my new friends again at ASLO’s Ocean Sciences Meeting early next year. Thank you LOREX for this amazing opportunity to expand my science!