It was the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies' world class reputation that attracted PhD candidate Habacuc Perez-Tribouillier from Mexico all the way to Hobart.
And three amazing voyages on Research Vessel Investigator have provided him with unique opportunities to gather data for his PhD research in chemical oceanography.
I was always interested in chemical oceanography, in geochemistry and after that I wanted to move on to work with dissolved elements in seawater.
After undertaking an undergraduate degree in Oceanography at Universidad Autonoma de Baja California and a Master of Science focusing on sediment geochemistry at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional (National Polytechnic Institute), Habacuc contacted his now supervisor Dr Zanna Chase, and discussed a pre-approved PhD project, which fit right into his area of interest.
I had this opportunity to come and do the PhD at IMAS, which is one of the best places to do research, especially in Antarctic science. We have researchers with great expertise in their areas, the level of the science that is done here is really high. It’s a great place to be.
Habacuc’s PhD project is titled: Quantifying Protactinium, Thorium and Neodymium Isotopes in Southwest Pacific Waters: Elucidating the Oceanographic Controls on these Tracers of Circulation, Productivity and Dust Input.
The importance of measuring these isotopes is that they can serve as indirect measurements of different oceanic processes, which have an important role controlling larger scale phenomenon like the global carbon cycle, or ocean acidification. And they can also help us predict how our ocean is going to respond to the actual changes in the global climate.
Basically, what I’m trying to do is collect some seawater samples to measure radio isotopes. These isotopes can tell us about ocean circulation, primary productivity, and the input of lithogenic material to remote parts of the ocean.
I think knowing the present conditions is important, it can help us to understand what is going on now, then we can use this data to compare what has happened in the past in the oceans.
Upon arriving in Tasmania, Habacuc had the opportunity to participate in three separate voyages on board Australia’s National Marine Facility the RV Investigator, which he said is "simply amazing." These voyages have provided Habacuc with the water samples for his PhD, providing vital primary data for his study.
I have a large data set from the Tasman Sea and that’s just about one tonne of water, then I collected another tonne of water in the Kerguelen Plateau, and in the most recent voyage to the Cascade sea mount I have collected about 100 kilograms of water. So I have a lot of material to work with!
When asked what would he’d tell other students looking to move to Tasmania from Mexico, Habacuc said "it’s a very good place to be, the level of the science is really high."
How to follow in Habacuc’s footsteps
If you have completed an undergraduate science degree at another university, study a Master of Marine and Antarctic Science – 1.5 years full time (Hobart).