ALIA Expedition
Interview with Stan Hart -- Chief Scientist

Daniel Staudigel: How does being on a ship compare to being at a University?

Stan Hart: Well, the most important difference is that there are no telephones. Off the ship there are thousands of tiny interruptions that when added together make it more difficult to focus.  The ship is also a small self-sufficient universe, there are no stores aboard. At a university, if you need something, you can just go to the hardware store and pick it up; not so on a ship. In this self-sufficient universe, it is much easier to focus on the job at hand, without being distracted.

Daniel: What is your function onboard the Kilo Moana?

Stan:  My function onboard is to keep everything working. Tibetan monks walk around a set path making sure all of the prayer wheels are spinning, my job is very similar.  I go from lab to lab making sure that everything is going, and if not, bring them up to speed. Part of that job is getting money before hand, and part of it is actually planning things like dredges and cores.

Daniel: Are you happy with the cruise so far?

Stan: I think the cruise has been spectacular. When the dredges come up empty, itís depressing, particularly because we took time out of the beginning of the cruise to study Nafanua. All in all, though, Nafanua was definitely worth the time we spent on it. We had to make changes in the schedule to allow for it, and I donít regret doing that.

Daniel: As a co-chief-scientist, what part of the cruise is yours?

Stan: Well, I do everything that Hubert (Staudigel) doesnít, though we both share the actual dredge operation. Hubert handles outreach, data management, IT, the works. I handle most of the science, "calling the shots" and whatnot. Oh, and I love naming things, so I do most of that.

Daniel: What do you spend most of your time doing, when not on the ship?

Stan: I spend the vast majority of my time with students. At one point, I had six students at the same time, but that was overwhelming.  I love working with students the most, and so I spend most of my time doing that. Students are whole packages, you canít ignore the nonacademic parts of them, because everything affects the science that they do. You have to deal with them in a very complete way, and that takes time and resources.The left over time is mostly paper-pushing and bureaucracy like proposals, reviewing papers, and attending committee meetings, etc. I also spend significant time keeping up with the literature. Of course, thatís life, and much of it is enjoyable.

Daniel: How many students have you had?

Stan: 32

Daniel: Fair enough. As an advisor, what is the best advice you have ever received?

Stan: Well, I donít really remember much specific advice that I was given. However, the most lasting impression that I got from my advisors was to be fearless. You canít do science if youíre afraid of breaking things. If youíre afraid to break the mass spec, you probably wonít be breaking through into any new frontiers. My advisors were always willing to roll up their sleeves and open up a piece of equipment to fix it. Chances are, techs that the manufacturers send out wonít know much more about the machinery than you will.  Besides, after working on those things for any length of time, you get pretty good with them. The bottom line is that everybody makes mistakes, and thatís just life. You have to move on, fix your problems, and it get done.

Daniel: What are the best and worst parts of your job?

Stan: Well, thereís the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good parts are being in the field and working with students. The bad parts are things like writing letters of recommendation... the paper pushing stuff I was talking about earlier. The ugly parts... are mostly personnel problems, like hiring, well, crazy people. I wonít go into that much, but fortunately those cases are few and far between.

Daniel: As the official seamount namer aboard this vessel, whyís there no Vailima seamount (Vailima is the Samoan Islandís own beer)?

Stan: Well, itís bad enough to be naming other peopleís places, let alone naming them after alcoholic beverages. I mean, itís not as bad as the Faíafafina incident, but still pretty tasteless.

Daniel: Faíafafina?

Stan: Faíafafina, is the way of the woman. Actually it means the way of a woman, as a man, i.e. a transvestite. For a long time the seamount was actually named that, but it was eventually changed to Vailuluíu, at the suggestion of a local high school.

Daniel: How did you end up naming it Faíafafina?

Stan: Well, we were sitting in a bar...  and...

Daniel: (Laughs) I think I get the idea. Thank you for your time.

Stan: No problem, if youíve got any other questions, just ask.

 

Daniel Staudigel onboard the R/V Kilo Moana.
26 April, 2005

 


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