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Current Time and Temperature at Palmer Station
Current time and temperature at Palmer Station

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Headline: The Team

Hugh Ducklow

Rebecca Dickhut, Principal Investigator
Virginia Institute of Marine Science

When Rebecca is not working, she is playing volleyball, brewing her own beer, watching movies, and hunting for antiques. Rebecca answered these questions in August, 2001.

Why are you a scientist?
I like to figure out how the world works. It is challenging. One hundred to two hundred years ago, people could be explorers. Now we explore through science. I became interested in my special area of "contaminant transport" because I am interested in pollution and environmental issues. I can be called an environmental geochemist. I model the movement of contaminants in the environment.

What is science?
Science is an effort to understand nature and how nature works. We do that by making observations in the environment, by making controlled experiments to verify our observations, and by analyzing our results in the laboratory. We are carefully peeling away the layers as we make connections between physical and biological processes.

What skills and qualities are
necessary to be a scientist?

Important qualities are tenacity and perseverance, because it is possible to get frustrated when things don’t work. However, we wouldn’t be on the cutting edge of research if things always worked. Other qualities include paying attention to details, because the details can matter. Math is always a must, and it is important to have good language skills because it is language that we use to describe natural processes.

What is most enjoyable about your job?
It’s most enjoyable when you figure something out–something that you can explain to others. Also, there is always something new to work on. I can always shift to new territory, to study a new ecosystem or a new geographical area.

What frustrations do you face with your job?
There are still some frustrations in being a woman in science. There is still a "glass ceiling" in some ways. VIMS is more collaborative than most places, because there are many interdisciplinary projects.

When you go out to make field observations,
what do you plan to do when you aren’t working?

I’m going to be reading and listening to books on tape. I read everything from murder mysteries to the classics. I hope it will be possible to exercise and walk around the area.

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