The Data Logger is responsible for cataloging and recording everything that occurs during a watch shift on an ROV dive or during a seafloor mapping watch. Data Loggers keep track of all seafloor observations and samples collected, coordinating with the scientists to ensure all science goals are completed and logged. At the same time, the Data Logger captures still frame photos of interesting and important seafloor features or organisms the ROV encounters while exploring the seafloor. In addition to becoming part of the official data record, these images are also seen in Nautilus Live photo albums and social media posts.
Data loggers also write dive reports after each dive to summarize the main events in a dive, samples taken, and timeline of operations. They are also responsible for updating season-long tracking data so Nautilus can report to science management agencies, funders, and public audiences about the scope of our exploration and sampling in an entire season. Other statistics tracked by data loggers include total dive time and total time with ROVs on the seafloor which is an important measure of the efficiency of OET’s exploration program.
During each expedition, it’s normal to have three data loggers on the ship. One of those data loggers is the Science Manager who trains and oversees the team along with maintaining safe working spaces in the wet lab. Science Managers often have years of experience with Nautilus operations and return year after year to mentor new members of the Corps of Exploration. Another data logger is the Science Manager-in-Training who is learning the role after one or two expeditions aboard Nautilus. The third data logger is often an Ocean Science Intern, often experiencing their first expedition at sea.
Documenting the Diversity of the Ocean
Outside of hours on watch, Data Loggers coordinate with the science team to process, appropriately store, and split samples to be shipped to data repositories after the expedition. Processing samples includes labeling and photographing the sample as well as fixing it--submerging it in a stabilizing chemical like ethanol or formalin to keep it from degrading. Nautilus’ goal in collecting samples from the seafloor is to provide critical materials from remote deep-sea locations for scientific research. Since deep-sea specimens are so precious and difficult to collect, the data logging and sampling processes are highly detailed to ensure samples are identifiable years after the expedition. Geological samples are housed at the Marine Geological Samples Lab, a national repository for rocks and sediment cores located at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography. Biological samples are curated at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, which allows researchers to request specimens of interest and enables discoveries to be made years after an expedition. These samples are stored like library books and can be checked out by researchers around the world to conduct further examination and analysis of samples from the seafloor.
Data Loggers ensure that all information about a sample - location and depth, surrounding water chemistry readings, observations from the control van team, and photos on the seafloor and in the lab are all digitally bundled with a sample so future researchers understand not only the sample but the context in which it was collected.
Within the Corps of Exploration, Data Loggers have academic training in fields like earth science (geology, geography, physics, etc), biological science (ecology, microbiology, genetics, etc), or computer sciences. Many Data Loggers are part of OET’s Science & Engineering Internship Program and are community college, undergraduate, or graduate students in geology, biology, chemistry, ecology, or archaeology. Often Data Loggers return to Nautilus over several years to participate in expeditions throughout their academic career, and some of our current Lead Scientists and Expedition Leaders started out as Data Loggers and students.
Other careers with similar skill sets include: chemist, earth scientist, environmental scientist, professor, laboratory manager, environmental health monitor, environmental engineer, database engineer, zoologist, volcanologist, and more.