Our peeps (em)powering science at sea

By Matt Marrison, Dr Thomas Moore

26 September 2019

4 minute read

Group of people (mainly women) in blue high-visibility shirts

Can you hear that? That’s the sound of Dr Barbara Musso and her team bringing you awesome marine science.

On land and sea, our marine research is powered by dedicated women. This World Maritime Day, meet three women who help switch on the science on our research vessel Investigator.

Charged with vision – Dr Barbara Musso

Managing a national facility is no small task. Especially when your workplace is a floating laboratory which operates 24/7 and can be found anywhere from the ice edge to the equator!

That’s the job for Dr Barbara Musso, Facilities Program Director of the Marine National Facility (MNF). Barbara is responsible for looking after the ship, its science, scientists and support staff. Plus, she signs off on all the important paperwork.

Basically, Barbara’s role is to ensure that everything is kept ship shape. And at 94 metres long and 40 metres tall, RV Investigator is a big ship shape to look after.

With 25 years’ experience in marine science and planning, Barbara steers the course for the MNF, providing vision and direction. Her focus is to ensure the facility continues to exceed the diverse needs of Australia’s marine research community. And, of course, delivers excellent marine research for the nation.

It’s a job with more than a few challenges, especially with the ship recently upsizing to full-year operations. Science is a team sport though and Barbara leads a ship management group of twenty staff (of which 60 per cent are women).

Leading the current wave – Dr Bernadette Sloyan

Two people talking in the cabin of the Investigator

Voyage Chief Scientist, Dr Bernadette Sloyan discusses upcoming operations with the ship captain during the underway voyage to the EAC. Image: Thomas Moore.

A world-class research platform is nothing without our science leaders to plan and deliver the research programs. That’s where Dr Bernadette Sloyan comes in. Bernadette is a Chief Research Scientist with our Oceans and Atmosphere team. She heads the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) Deep Water Mooring Facility.

Bernadette plans and delivers long-term, ocean monitoring programs. These programs help us better understand how ocean variability drives changes in our climate and fisheries.

To monitor oceans and climate, you need to play the long game and look to the future. Currently at sea on our RV Investigator, Bernadette has a science and engineering team that includes a team of young, early-career researchers. These voyages are prime time for mentoring. Bernadette uses every opportunity to teach the unique set of practical skills that must fill a future oceanographer’s toolbox.

Tomorrow’s sea-going science is in good hands with leaders like Bernadette paving the way.

A bright spark transforming the business – Kalli Webb

Person holding three glass trophies

Improving marine research planning brings its own rewards. Or ‘awards’ – from the Australian Institute of Project Management.

Science at sea doesn’t just happen. Behind every voyage are years of planning, thousands of emails and hundreds of pages of paperwork sent back and forth in the post. Some might say the process is a bit off-putting.

Enter Kalli Webb, Business Improvement Coordinator with the MNF. Kalli’s role is to transform the system and usher in a new era – MAPS! Short for the Marine Application and Planning System, MAPS is a new system that digitises the voyage application and planning process. Both user- and environmentally-friendly, MAPS delivers a more efficient and cost-effective way of doing business. Think of it a bit like Skynet, only friendlier.

Set to be switched on in 2020, MAPS is already delivering big wins. Kalli and her team, in partnership with 2PM Services, were recently shooting the lights out at the 2019 Australian Institute of Project Management awards for Tasmania. They took home four awards including best Tasmanian project and the Future Project Leader award for Kalli.

Thanks to the smarts of Kalli and her team, scientists like Bernadette now have more time to think about science, rather than signing paperwork.

Unplugging the status quo

The Investigator ship docked at evening

CSIRO’s RV Investigator is undertaking a research voyage to monitor changes in the East Australian Current (EAC), maintaining deep ocean moorings for the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS). Image: Thomas Moore.

This World Maritime Day, we join the International Maritime Organization to celebrate the theme of Empowering Women in the Maritime Community. Across the globe, the maritime industry wants to raise awareness of the importance of gender equality, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and encourage women to look at careers open to them.

While this industry has traditionally been male-dominated, everyone benefits from having women as part of the team.