Female Glider Technicians Break Scientist Stereotypes by Film Student Gabriela Elise

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Nicole Couto & Filipa Carvalho prep a glider robot at Palmer Station

Name a scientist. Who came to mind first? Was it a man? The sciences have been male-dominated since their inception, but that is changing. Incredibly intelligent, talented women are making strides in the sciences, and in turn, becoming inspirations for girls in schools today.

Nicole Couto and Filipa Carvalho are two Ph.D. candidates at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences of Rutgers University. They’ve made the trek down to Antarctica to study why and how climate change is affecting the Antarctic ecosystem. They capture thousands of microscopic organisms from beneath the ice, they use radioactive material to run tests, and they send robots on underwater missions.

As the editor of a short film centered on these two scientists, my goal was to illustrate the excitement and passion they have for their work. I wanted to create a story that would keep an audience’s interest when talking about phytoplankton, but to also show the human part of science. Nicole and Filipa are that human element. We see the passion they have for their work, we learn of their gratitude to be working on such a prestigious mission, and we see the fun that they have.


Glider technicians deploying their robot off a zodiac near Palmer Station.

When girls in middle school or even grad school watch the short film, I want them to be inspired by Nicole and Filipa. These two women entered a male-dominated field and rocked it! Those young women in the audience can do the same, whether it’s oceanography or filmmaking, engineering or law. Now name a scientist. Was she a woman?

How do you study whales?

Dena Seidel has been learning how whale biologist Dave Johnston studies whales.  Dr. Johnston and  Zach Swaim study humpback whales in the waters near Palmer Station using zodiacs and Dena has captured film footage during this research.  Dr. Johnston has a license from NOAA to tag and take biopsy samples. Biopsies are small tissue samples.  Since you cannot get really close to these large animals, sampling is done from a distance (see photo).  These methods will allow  this research group to track these whales to learn more about their feeding behavior and diet.


Zach Swaim sends a tag in the direction of the humpback whale in this NOAA-approved research studies. (Photo: Dena Seidel)


Filming and Learning in Antarctica

Dena Seidel reports the “science continues to be amazing.”

Here are 2 photos from Antarctica – one taken on Humble Island interviewing penguin scientist Donna Fraser (you may recognize the penguins from an earlier posting) and the other taken on the glacier behind Palmer station with scientist Reide Corbett, who is studying glacial runoff but is not part of the Long Term Ecological Research project.

Dena Seidel filming Donna Fraser with Adélie penguins, Humble Island, Jan. 2013. (Photo: Chris Linder)

Dena Seidel interviewing Reide Corbett and graduate student Leigha Peterson behind Palmer Station, Jan. 2013.(Photo: Chris Linder)



Dena Seidel

Arriving at Palmer

The Gould arrived at Palmer Station, on the Western Antarctic Peninsula, last Friday and Dena Seidel sent these photos over the weekend.  She writes, “Here is a photo of us arriving at Palmer station, a small science outpost filled with amazing scientists and impressive science labs. Only 30 some people live here year round but the work they are doing is very important from phytoplankton research to the biochemistry of melting glacial ice”

Arriving at Palmer Station, January 2013.


A view of the water and ice looking toward a nearby island. January 2013.

The Laurence M Gould Research Vessel docked at Palmer Station, Antarctica, January 2013