I always thought about the stars and the universe, and I asked myself how life would be outside the Earth. In this I was influenced by my father who is a meteorologist. I remember being, since a young age, really fascinated. And I wanted to be an astronaut for quite a long time. But at the same time I had really enjoyed the ocean ever since I was very small. So I think, I always had this love for both the ocean and space, and I grew up with these two constant loves. Finally by the time I chose to become an oceanographer, I realized there was a field called satellite oceanography. I was really fascinated by it. And so I think, in some ways, I combined the two fields of expertise.


Usually people who work in satellite oceanography specialize in different fields. In my case, I work more in what we call ocean colour. As we can see right here. This is an image in which we use visible range of electromagnetic radiation, and we try to derive some property of the ocean. In this case, we are looking at chlorophyll A, which is a proxy for phytoplankton biomass, that is, for micro-organisms. So wherever you have red colours it means you have a lot of chlorophyll in the water and that means they are richer waters. So, this is one of the ways we understand where waters are rich, and that is important for fisheries, for example, but also for our research. We also use data on, for example, sea surface temperature, which is important to understand a little about the thermal properties in oceans, and this information is important for climate change studies and understanding the main currents. We also use altimetry data for mean currents and salinity – via a new satellite, actually. That is very recent and has provided us with information about salinity. These types of information are commonly used nowadays if you work in oceanography, because satellites can provide very good coverage of the ocean which would be very difficult using traditional ships. Even though we still need [ships] today, they are expensive, they don’t cover as much area, and they are complicated. While with satellite imaging you can get a snapshot of hundreds of thousands of kilometres of the ocean.


Girls are usually very good in sciences. In my experience from working with girls: they endure many more hardships from the cruise. I would say that some of the best people I have in the ocean are girls, so I think that they don’t have anything to prove but basically they have to be stubborn. I don’t think that to be in science you need to be extremely intelligent but you need to be stubborn. You need to feel the passion. I would say that it is the same for girls and men, but if a girl experiences some traumatic effects because of being ‘a girl’ or because she isn’t given equal consideration, I would just say: don’t think about it, and just keep going on. Because you are good! I think they shouldn’t give up just because they experience some obstacles, But, as I said, I think nowadays it’s getting better and better. But still, you sometimes experience discrimination. I would say: stay strong, keep going on, because you are going to get someplace. To me the most important thing is that, if you really love it, and love science, then you are going to do it.

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© Anne-Laure Cahen