Ted Maksym, Chief Scientist on JR240. Photo by Pete.

Many of you who read my previous post probably wondered: “Who is Ted and why are all the prizes paid from his account?” Well, Ted is the Chief Scientist of the JR240 cruise, also known as the Principle Science Officer-PSO. This means that he has to be the most patient person onboard, dealing with weather, changing ice conditions, underwater robots gone missing and 16 crazy scientists, not the mention there is a half dozen people looking for him at any given time, and another half dozen complaining to him at the same time. Luckily, because of his positive attitude and great character, we went through some very stressful times on this cruise with little damage and when the cruise ends in the next couple of days, we will have met most of our goals.

Ted and a local inspector

After coring the ice, Ted carefully divides a core into smaller sections and them puts them in plastic buckets to take onboard.

DA: Where are you from originally?
TM: I grew up in Nova Scotia. I attended college studying engineering and physics in Ontario. I got my PhD in Alaska in geophysics and I’ve been living in the UK for the last four years.
DA: What is it about sea ice you’re interested in, for this cruise?
TM: Sea ice thickness mostly and the role of sea ice in climate. We know the extent of the sea ice, how much area of the oceans it covers,from satellite imagery, but we can not tell the exact thickness due to the snow on top. We are trying to learn how to relate what a satellite sees from above to the thickness so we can get the volume of sea ice.
DA: I see you using an ice corer on the ice all the time, can you describe what you do when you go out the ice?
TM: All the measurements we take on the ice are complimentary. Some people measure snow thickness, others drill to measure ice thickness, and others put out instrumentation to measure melt/growth of the ice. Using all these methods, we want to compare what we see so we can learn more about ice thickness. When we core, we are usually looking for a level,undisturbed spot that would tell us the growth history of the ice. If it’s rough and not very level, it’ll be layers of broken ice. What we try to learn is how the ice grew, and how much snow is incorporated into the ice. The other major thing we are interested in is looking at biology (DA’s note: see Eric’s work) which is often related to structure of the ice. If we have the physical structure, we can learn more about the biology. Then we can link this to what the AUV is sensing because it has radiation sensors that measure light. Eric is also measuring the light. If we can measure how much light is transmitted through the ice, then combined with the AUV data, we can estimate the algae in the entire floe.
DA: Every floe we stop on seems to be different in its own way. Are we going to be able to generalize the results we have gotten, say, for the Weddell Sea and the Bellingshausen Sea?
TM: The idea is to sample as many different floes as you can with different morphologies. We want to look at some floes that are flat, and some that are bumpy with identifiable features in them. We want to see how those features on the surface relate to the features on the bottom. We can see the bumpiness of the surface from satellite imagery and how much sticks up above the ocean, but like icebergs, we don’t see most of the ice below in the water. The trouble is the deep snow you have here makes it difficult to tell the ice thickness, so we are trying to see how that relates to ice thickness.
DA: How did you get interested in sea ice?
TM: People who do polar science do it because it is the kind of thing they love to do anyway. You love the outdoors, the snow, ice, climbing, etc. It is a way of being somewhere for work otherwise you’d only go for vacation. And some of the places we work at, you can’t really go for vacation! I have been working on sea ice for over 10 years now, and have been to the poles 8 times. I’ve mostly been on ships like this one but have also done one ice camp. This is my second time on the JCR; it’s a good, capable ship. It’s a great, comfortable ship to work on. And the food is good.
DA: Is there one cruise among the ones you have been on that is more memorable than the others?
TM: This one because I have a nice cabin! (DA’s note: As the Chief Scientist, Ted’s cabin is on the Bridge Deck, where the captain and the top officers reside, and it is so big we sometimes joke you have to have a map and check with security before you can get to Ted). This is the first time I’ve been a Chief Scientist on a cruise and it is very exciting because we are using the most sophisticated technology (AUV, two laser scanners etc) we can to understand the complete picture of the sea ice. Using the most sophisticated technology of course, also implies we deal with more complications, but it has all been worth it because of the great data we have collected.
DA: Does your wife enjoy the ice and cold and snow as well?
TM: She’s from Alaska so she has had enough time in the snow and cold. She has also worked in the Arctic as a biologist.

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2 Comments on Ted Maksym – Chief Scientist

  1. colin quinn says:

    Hi Derya,I am following your blog on behalf of my class in Kilkeel ,N.Ireland.We are following JCR as an ex-pupil,Dan ,is one of the engineering cadets.I find the science fascinating and am trying to explain it to the pupils so that they can become aware of the issues involved. We have learnt a lot and hopefully your work will inspire future scientists.Keep up the good work.

  2. Ian Maksym says:

    Hi Derya – Thank you for the pictures!!! How did you draw the speech bubble? Do penguins really talk? Ted, are you going to be the chief next time? Ian

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