Annaliese Meyer

Student Research AssistantAnnaliesephoto
School of Earth and Ocean Sciences
University of Victoria
Victoria, British Columbia

Annaliese will be collecting InFORM samples aboard two oceanographic cruises in the summer of 2017. First she will board the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier cruising from Victoria, BC to Barrow, AK the first few weeks of July. After a few weeks, The CCGS John P Tully will be calling and Annaliese will head out on Line P. This will be her first time out at sea (beyond BC ferries) and she’s excitedly following in the footsteps of Saskia, Laura, and Kathryn who have come before. As in 2016, she plans to report from the field as frequently as communications allow. Annaliese is really excited to be a part of the InFORM project to see the application of that which she has learned about in classes such as shipboard instrumentation and hopes that, through her contributions and the project, the public will develop more trust in the scientific process as it’s being readily communicated.

Annaliese credits her passion for science to a childhood spent proving the existence of fairies, understanding the higher dimensions of space-time after reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and a vivid memory from when she was 7 where she communicated with Bjossa the killer whale at the Vancouver Aquarium. She is currently pursuing a major in microbiology with a minor in oceanography at the University of Victoria. When not studying or preparing to go to sea, Annaliese can be found painting, singing in a UVic choir, or at the engineering building where she is the Payload Science Lead for UVic Rocketry. She recently returned from New Mexico where they launched two rockets to 10,000 ft above ground level as part of the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition!


Unedited Version (because sometimes the details paint better pictures)

Briefly describe your role in InFORM research.

I will be collecting seawater samples onboard the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier as we travel from Ogden Point in Victoria, BC, up to Barrow, Alaska. I run the samples through resin columns that collect radiocesium, and we ship those samples to a gamma spectrometry facility in John Smith‘s lab for analysis. I will be following in the footsteps of three other undergraduates who collected these samples in previous years: Saskia, Laura and Kathryn.

What motivated you to become a scientist?

It’s hard to pinpoint that exactly, but it mainly comes down to two things. For one, I read fairly ravenously as a child. I tended to get very offended when I was told that whatever science fiction or fantasy novel I was reading couldn’t possibly ever be real, and set about to prove that whatever I was reading was possible via hours in the library and elaborate experiments. I vividly remember reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time in grade 3 and then proceeding to spend hours scouring various resources trying to figure out how the higher dimensions of space-time worked and thoroughly confusing myself. There were also the many experiments trying to prove that fairies were real, but that’s another story. Overall, having my parents encouraged that sort of questioning and experimentation made it very natural to want to understand the world around me in the same manner as I got older.

On the other hand, my family also spent a lot of time in Stanley Park when I was growing up, exploring the park and the Vancouver Aquarium. I remember being fascinated by the rescued orcas there, and spent a somewhat concerning amount of time trying to talk to them. However, it paid off: when I was probably six or seven, I was at the edge of the water attempting to imitate their calls when one of the orcas, Bjossa, breached and did the same call back to me. I’m not sure why that made such an impression on me, but I suddenly stopped seeing a line between humans and all the other forms of life, and I wanted to understand and protect all of it. When Bjossa died a few years later after being moved to SeaWorld, San Diego, that desire become more of a mission. While I haven’t tried to communicate with whales in a while, I still have that mission in mind. I’m currently doing a Microbiology major with an Oceans minor, and hopefully that will take me a few steps further in understanding how all of us lifeforms fit into this beautiful, complex world.

What do you hope to get out of being a scientist with the InFORM project?

This will be my first time doing extended field research, so I am looking forward to seeing how all the different projects do their sampling, and learning how to handle technical difficulties in stride. I can’t wait to learn how all the sampling systems that I hear about in class actually operate, and to get a taste of ship life! I’m also really excited to see how all our samples line up with the mathematical models proposed after the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident.

I hope to have a chance to speak with all the other incredible people on board. There is so much passion and knowledge among those coming on this trip, and there is so much to learn. I have barely scratched the surface of current ocean research (pun intended) in my studies, and I’ll have the opportunity to work alongside those who have been pushing the field forward for years. I hope to come out of this experience filled with a million more questions that, today, I wouldn’t even know to ask.

What do you hope the public will learn from the InFORM project?

I hope that the public gets a better idea of how ocean research happens, and where the data we present to them comes from. Before entering university, I barely knew what a CTD was, and had no idea how any sort of trace metal sampling was performed. It can be more difficult for the general to trust the data that is presented if they don’t understand how it’s obtained. InFORM has done a really good job of explaining that so far. I also hope that people generally develop a more critical eye when it comes to media presentation of scientific information. Especially when it comes to radiation and nuclear power, there is such a large amount of associated fear and stigma that the facts often get garbled. Having an honest, scientifically sound and accessible source of information, like the InFORM website, is incredibly important to avoid that sort of misrepresentation and to allow scientists and policy makers to focus on the work that needs to be done without constant public backlash.

How do you enjoy spending your time when you are not conducting research?

I spend a lot of time painting, participating in various UVic choirs, and hanging out in the observatory getting very excited about space. I also volunteer with environmental groups around the city and try to go on as many outdoor adventures as possible.

I am also the Payload Science Lead for UVic Rocketry, so I pull a lot of hours in the engineering buildings at the university building high powered sounding rockets and designing scientific experiments to go on board. I just returned from (blisteringly hot) New Mexico for the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition where we launched two rockets to 10 000 ft AGL (above ground level).

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