Five questions for Anna Wåhlin, who has been appointed Professor of Oceanography.
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BECOMING A PROFESSOR?
As a professor you have a great responsibility for the subject – in my case, oceanography. You have to work to ensure that the entire subject area progresses, and that the education and research develop and improve. A professor is a voice for the subject, and as we don’t have that many professors of oceanography in Sweden, I hope that an additional voice will bring benefits.
WHAT DOES THIS APPOINTMENT MEAN FOR YOU?
It means that I’ll be spending more time working with the subject instead of specific research projects, and the younger researchers working on the projects will have more responsibility. The position will involve more research, so I won’t have to apply for as much external funding for my own salary and can work instead to ensure that others have good opportunities for research.
YOU’RE THE FIRST FEMALE FULL PROFESSOR OF OCEANOGRAPHY IN SWEDEN. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?
I feel it’s about time! The fact that I’m the first isn’t because of a lack of logical, smart, creative women – it’s more an unfortunate product of a system in which skewed selection procedures have been allowed.
WHAT WILL YOUR NEXT RESEARCH PROJECT BE?
Oh, there are lots! We’re carrying out an expedition to Greenland this summer and one to the Antarctic this winter, we have prototypes ready for a new type of survey buoy that can transmit data back from the Antarctic by satellite, a new post doc who will be working with satellite data and strengthening our collaboration with Chalmers’ Department of Earth and Space Sciences (remote analysis of ocean currents and ice), a new doctoral student who will be working with icebergs (also in association with Chalmers), and we have a number of articles to write about Antarctic ocean currents and the link to inland ice.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE MOST IMPORTANT FUTURE/RESEARCH QUESTION IS?
Developing our way of carrying out ocean measurements. Most measurements are currently carried out from ships and icebreakers, especially in the polar regions. This is expensive, and is limited by access to boats. In order to understand the marine systems and how they link to climate changes, we need to significantly increase measurement series, in both temporal and spatial terms. We need measurements like the ones carried out by satellite – measurements that cover the whole of the earth and are regularly repeated in future years. The only way of achieving this is through large-scale automation of measurements. We need to get away from our dependence on the large research vessels and develop cheap autonomous platforms and sensors.