Scientists at Work

The Conversation

What’s it like to send an autonomous robot into the Southern Ocean or explore submarine volcanoes? How do scientists identify wolves by their howls or measure an eclipse?

“Scientists at Work” — a series from the Conversation, a not-for-profit organization that publishes newsy articles from academics — features almost 50 articles by scientists about their tasks in the lab and the field.

Scientists from universities all over the world highlight what it takes to explore the unexplored and explain the unexplained.

The series takes readers to icebergs, urban digs and remote field stations. In one report, public archaeologist Nina M. Versaggi writes how she helps preserve cultural treasures in places where construction projects are planned.

What happens when fragments of Native American cooking hearths are found at the site of a proposed parking lot? Versaggi says she helped developers and officials in Binghamton, New York, determine how to preserve the site for future research.

Geologist Michael Perfit’s work also focuses on what is beneath Earth’s surface. He goes underwater to study volcanoes on midocean ridges. The job is physically and mentally exhausting. Perfit describes what it’s like in Alvin, a submersible vehicle that he has taken to depths of nearly 40,000 feet about 40 times.

He paints an evocative picture of a seafloor covered in lava flows, hydrothermal vents and unusual wildlife. His samples, photos and observations are then used to help answer lingering questions about how the majority of Earth’s crust is formed.

So far, there are 46 articles in the series — enough to answer your questions about challenging scientific pursuits and stoke your imagination.

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