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Marine Biologist

Adele - an marine biologist at the University of Sydney Dr Adele Pile is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Sydney.

What exactly do you do?

Of the Earth's surface 67% is covered in water greater than 1000 metres depth and only 5% of that has been explored. My job is to explore the planet using manned submersibles and underwater robots, to find out what is living there and conduct experiments to determine how they do it. A good portion of my time is spent at sea on research expeditions or on oil rigs exploring the sea floor. Then there is a lot of time at the computer analysing data and writing about my findings. I also teach ...

How did you come to do this work?

When I was 8 years old I watched a very fuzzy black and white image of Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the moon. I thought to myself that being an explorer would be a great job and thought that only place left to explore was outer space so I wanted to become an astronaut. Then at university, to my amazement, I learned that most of the Earth had yet to be explored. This surprised me because I figured if we were going into space that we must know everything about our planet. I then decided I wanted to study the unexplored life on our own planet.

What path did you follow/or not, to get to where you are now?

I had difficulty figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up ... so after high school I became a professional firefighter while I figured it out. After 7 years of that I went to university and actually obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Biology. As part of my studies I did a semester at one of the most famous of all marine biology laboratories; Woods Hole (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) . From there I was hooked (no pun intended). I then went on to complete a Masters and PhD in Marine Science and during this time went on all sorts of expeditions to places like Lake Baikal in Siberia, the world's oldest and deepest lake, and lived underwater for 10 days in Aquarius (undersea laboratory in Florida). After finishing university most new scientist's first job is to work with a more established scientist, like an apprenticeship, and I did mine with a deep sea scientist. It was then that I went on my first manned submersible mission to the deep sea.

What sort of skills are necessary in your job?

You have to be able to think on your feet because you never know what you may find out there so that means you need to have studied and learned about a lot of different subjects from ocean currents to the types of bacteria in the water. You need to be strong in mathematics and a very good writer because that is how we tell people about our findings. You need to be able to work in teams with all types of people because you depend on the pilots that operate the robots and submersibles and their knowledge to help you with your experiments.

What do you like about your job? What do you "get off on"?

I get to be the first person to see new places and exotic animals on our planet.
Deep sea eels discovered by Adele and colleagues

Is it your dream job or is that still to come?

This is my dream job. I wake up every morning and can't wait to get to work to see what new life forms I might learn about today.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career like yours?

Don't give up. A taxi driver once said to me when I told them about my job that it was like being a Rock star, everybody wants to do it but only a few people ever get the chance. If you believe in yourself others will believe in you too.

What is a "usual" day?

When exploring, we spend the day either in the sub/rov shack or processing the samples. When offshore on the oil rigs, we first prepare the robot and experiments for the days work, launch the robot and then the pilots operate the robot while I ask them to do things. This all takes place in a pretty specy room and we watch what is going on from the cameras on the robot on big monitors. At the end of the day we process the samples.
Adele's research team on a boat during a field trip

Where exactly do you work?

My office is at The University of Sydney. But field work can take me anywhere. Right now we are doing a lot of field work on the Northwest shelf of Australia off oil rigs.

What are some alternative jobs that you would be qualified for?

Most jobs in marine biology are few and far between. Other jobs I would be qualified for would involve developing sound policies for managing the marine environment for government agencies from the local to the commonwealth level of government.

How has your work benefited society?

Before we can properly manage our environment and the impacts that humans make on it we must first understand what is there. Our exploration of the planet informs society as to what organisms we find in these environments and how they can live in them. Once we answer these simple questions, then we can begin to understand how human activities are changing these communities.

Find out more about Adele Pile's work ...

Find out more about Marine Science ...

Find out about Careers in Marine Science ...

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