May 22, 2020 - Benthic data collection

Niki Davey, benthic data and specimens specialist talks about her work and life onboard RV Tangaroa at the moment.

Niki Davey, benthic data and specimens 

Where are you from? 

Mahana, Tasman district. 

How long have you been working at NIWA? 

21 years. 

What is your role onboard? 

I analyse the camera data that we collect in real time, and help sort mud and specimen samples we collect.

What is a typical day for you when working on the ship?

I start by taking the multibeamed data and preparing a map for the biologists to use for the camera work. I also set up the CTD instrument, that measures conductivity (salinity), temperature and depth so that it is ready for deployment. The camera then goes in the water and I watch the live video and analyse what I see: mud, sea stars, sea cucumbers, fish, etc. This goes on for about an hour. Once the camera and the other instruments are brought back onboard, I download the CTD data and go through the still images to have a closer look at the benthic fauna.

What have you seen that is interesting on this trip so far? 

We are working on quite shallow areas so far on this trip, so I have been able to see some interesting fauna. We saw a cool squid yesterday and loads of brachiopods. We’re always hoping to see something new or capture a great photo of something!

What happens to the specimens collected? 

If we do collections, we will preserve and return them to Greta Point where they will be sent to a taxonomic experts to identify. 

Is your job full of surprises?

The highlight of going at sea is that we are a small team of people who are all working towards a similar goal. Each trip is different and my role onboard changes. The variety of jobs is probably the main thing that has kept me going for 21 years. 

What aspect of your job can inspire youth to pursue a career in science?

I really enjoy talking about science with kids. I am currently doing a cool project with the Mahana School in the Tasman region. They studied the deep sea last year and they are looking at doing some pressure experiments this year. I gave the children some polystyrene cups to decorate and brought them onboard with me to shrink. Unfortunately, due to lockdown timing, it wasn’t quite the focused lesson we had planned. However, I do have the cups ready for when we get to a deep site. 

Niki Davey onboard Tangaroa. [Photo: Niki Davey]
Gorgon’s head basket star (Gorgonocephalus sp.) spotted during a transect on the voyage.  [Photo: Niki Davey]
A muddy bottom reveals the presence of many life forms. [Photo: Niki Davey]
A squid seen cruising through the deep on the Campbell Plateau. [Photo: Niki Davey]
Niki is currently doing a project with the Mahana School in the Tasman region. They are studying pressure this year and are hoping to see their styrofoam cups shrink if they make it deep enough into the ocean. [Photo: Niki Davey]
Styrofoam cups after going deep into the ocean. [Photo: Niki Davey]