From the lab to the sea; where are AusOcean interns at now?

We had a chat with previous AusOcean summer intern Ella Pietraroia to see what life is like on the CSIRO research vessel (RV) investigator.

What is your job title?

Technically it is ‘Senior Technical Officer’ in the Data Acquisition and Processing team, but we usually call ourselves Software Engineers.

What does a typical day look like for you?

On CSIRO research vessel (RV) Investigator:

Depending on what shift I’m on (2 people in my role work 12 hours each so that there is 24-hour support), I wake up around 1:30am, get dressed and go to handover at 2am. This is a conversation with my offsider about what has happened while I’ve been asleep, and what plans are upcoming. Then I’ll head to the mess for my first meal. Hot food is served 9-5, so we have to get creative outside those hours. Every day of tasks is different, but I’ll often be running the software of scientific equipment or helping scientists with technical or coding problems. To keep everyone entertained we often hold ‘Science Talks’ to hear about the different research going on. For Covid safety, I often help the presenter set up for a video chat that is streamed around the ship. At 2pm my offsider comes back from their rest and we have another handover. Then I have some free time to go to the gym or read a book before going to bed at around 5pm.

On shore:

A normal 9-5 working day. I have a desk in an open plan office at the CSIRO Marine Laboratories in Hobart, where I work on writing and maintaining code of one of the many custom-built programs on the ship. There is also a fair bit of time spent processing data and writing reports from when I have been on the ship.

How often do you get out onto the water?

Usually about 85 days a year, this can be as short as 10 days and as long as 60 days for one voyage.

Life on the water can be challenging, is there anything you do to look after yourself?

Lots of sleep, and I try to get out to see the sunrise/sunset every day.

What is your favourite project that you have worked on?

A small project helping a scientist to visualise sea surface temperature data on a map with the location of his deployments. It was fantastic to see how excited he was!

What do you like most about your work?

The variation, both from being on shore, then on the ship, and that each voyage on the ship is so different, so I get to hear about a plethora of ocean research.

What’s your next career goal or something you would like to achieve?

I would like to see one of the larger projects that I have started to produce deployed on the ship. I hope that the easier we make it for the scientists, the more they will be able to achieve.

What advice would you give to someone that wants to do what you do?

Always apply for the jobs that you know you will be passionate about, even if you don’t have the exact qualifications or experience. I was accepted for an internship at AusOcean 2 years after I first applied.

Is there anything you learnt during your AusOcean internship that is beneficial to your role now?

As well as furthering my passion for sustainability and ocean conservation, AusOcean gave me technical software engineering skills that I am extremely grateful for. Being open source, AusOcean holds itself to very high coding standards that have only made me a better programmer.

Read Ella's internship report here.

AusOcean is a not-for-profit ocean research organisation that supports open source practices. Open source approaches to tackling environmental issues means embracing collaborative tools and workflows which enables processes and progress to be fully transparent. A critical aspect of working open is sharing data not only with your immediate team but with others across the world who can learn, adapt and contribute to collective research. By contributing to, and supporting open practices within the scientific community, we can accelerate research and encourage transparency. All tech assembly guides can be found at

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