Making science happen: a conversation with Jackson Chu, marine biologist
June 29, 2015

What inspired you to choose your career path in marine biology? Did you have a “fall in love with the ocean” moment?

Yes, I did! As an undergraduate, I mostly trained to be an agricultural entomologist. However, a semester at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre (BMSC) in 2005 changed my career trajectory.

Jackson Chu preparing a ROPOS ROV suction sampler on the RV Falkor.

How did you become familiar with the observatories and data at Ocean Networks Canada (VENUS)?

My first experience collaborating with ONC was during my master's degree while on an expedition to survey glass sponge reefs in the Strait of Georgia in October 2007.

In 2008, ONC returned the favor by letting me use an ROV and shiptime to deploy some of my unique biology experiments in the Strait that measure benthic silica cycling of sponge reefs.

By sharing resources and experience over the years, I indirectly learned about ocean monitoring, cabled observatories, and ONC data. This naturally sparked my curiosity to see if I could use observatories to address my science questions about marine ecology, which is why I started my current PhD with Verena Tunnicliffe here at UVic. Collaboration with ONC and use of ONC data now forms the backbone of my PhD research.

Any favorite research stories?

Grad school is like a big, continuous roller coaster ride. There are definitely bits where you’re feeling high in the sky and bits when you’re constantly screaming.

Performing experiments on live animals is required to answer some of my bigger questions on how climate change will impact seafloor communities. The tricky part is catching and keeping the animals alive.

This interview has been edited for length.

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