Originally from Italy, Marta Maria Cecchetto is a PhD researcher at the Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine and Technology, at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. She is studying the impacts of deep-sea mining and climate change in the deep sea in the central Pacific Ocean and in the West Antarctic Peninsula.
Marta has a BSc (Hons) in Marine Science from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).
Briefly describe your current work and your research.
My research studies the impacts of deep-sea mining and climate change in the deep seafloor (>200 m depth) by looking at ecosystem functioning (how an ecosystem works). I am studying how nutrients, carbon and oxygen are cycling between water, sediments and organisms at the seafloor and how this is going to change under the effects of climate change and deep-sea mining.
There is an area in the central Pacific Ocean (the Clarion Clipperton Zone, CCZ) which is going to be mined for polymetallic nodules – potato-size mineral accretions, rich in manganese, iron, cobalt, copper, nickel and rare earth element. Mining this area will severely impact the local and surrounding deep-sea environment, contributing to the loss of biodiversity and deep-sea habitats.
Everyone has now heard about climate change and how carbon dioxide is altering the fragile Earth feedback equilibrium. The deep-sea has now long offered a natural carbon repository and sink; however, we need to improve our understanding on how this remote environment is balancing out the carbon excess and how the organisms are responding to this change.
What do you love the most about your job?
I am a curious person and this job offers the opportunity to investigate new things every day. I love the constant challenge and the opportunity of studying remote and unexplored environments. Also, I like to think that this research will contribute to protecting our oceans and maybe improve preservation strategies in the deep-sea.
How difficult was it to get where you are today?
It was not difficult; however, it took a lot of work. My family always encouraged me to follow my dreams and work towards them. There was a lot of hard work towards my studies and a lot of commitment, however it is also important to enjoy what you are doing and being passionate about what you are studying. I love the oceans and I have always enjoyed learning new facts and curiosities about the many different environments that they offer.
What was the biggest obstacle in your way before your career reached where it is today? How did you overcome it?
I have been really lucky as I have never encountered many difficulties. The biggest challenge was when I graduated high school. Many of my professors thought that academia was not my career path; however, I have followed my dream and I have always been passionate about my subject – loving what I have been doing, helped to prove them wrong.
No matter what other people tell you, follow your dream and try to achieve it. You will encounter many closed doors, but sometimes you just need to knock, and they open offering you many opportunities.
What are you looking forward to the most in the future of marine science?
The oceans cover the majority of our world and I like to think that with our research we have the opportunity to make a difference, by saving the oceans we have the opportunity of improving our lifestyle.
How do you think we can get more women involved within marine science?
I think here the better question is not how to involve more women but is how we keep them in marine science. Lately, women have had great opportunity to develop their careers and get more involved at international level.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring female marine scientists?
Just follow your dream and treasure every opportunity. No matter how difficult it seems at the beginning, every journey starts with a first step – just keep walking. You will encountered challenges and it will not always be easy – stop, take a breath and start again. Keep an open mind and ask a lot of questions. Finally, my most important advice is have fun enjoying what you are doing.
In one sentence, why do you think a career within marine science is a great career option?
You have the opportunity to travel around the world discovering hidden and unexplored environments and to protect our oceans and our world.
Social Media Links
- ResearchGate: Marta Maria Cecchetto
- Twitter: @MartaMCecchetto
- Work Group Blog: “Marine Benthic Ecology, Biogeochemistry and In Situ Technology Group”
I would like to give a massive thank you to Marta Maria Cecchetto for participating in this interview. I cannot wait to share more of your stories and I hope that you find inspiration in learning of other journeys within marine science.
Are you a woman working within marine science? Would you like to share your story and inspire the next generation? Please get in contact with me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be involved with the Leading Women in Marine Science Interview Series.
Disclaimer: All responses to the interview questions belong to Marta Maria Cecchetto. The biography and the headshot also belong to Marta Maria Cecchetto. All other photographs used in this article belong to Annabell Moser.