Report - Research Stay in Perth by Mira Schmitt

From October to December 2023, Mira Schmitt did a research stay at the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre of the University of Western Australia in Perth, Australia.

Text: Mira Schmitt

At the end of last year, I spent two months in Perth, Western Australia, to work on a collaborative project with Jen-Ping Peng, who was a PhD in TRR181’s first phase and is now a PostDoc in the working group of Nicole Jones at the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre of the University of Western Australia. For the most part, my stay in Perth was covered by the Australia–Germany Joint Research Cooperation Scheme, with the TRR kindly providing some additional financial support. The above scheme is an initiative of Universities Australia and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for the support of international academic cooperation. Early-career researchers from Australia and Germany are encouraged to hand in proposals for a joint research topic, and, if approved, the grant covers the expenses for a research stay at the partner institute. For our project, Jen-Ping and I decided that we want to combine our two fields of research and investigate the interactions of diurnal warm layers, submesoscale fronts and other turbulent processes in the surface mixed layer. For this, we firstly extended the 1D turbulence model GOTM to include 3D frontal effects and validated our model results by comparing them to published LES studies. Then, we used our model to recreate measurements taken previously during two campaigns in the Baltic Sea and the Indian Ocean and use the results to understand the governing processes involved. We found nice agreements between the measurements and our simple model and are planning on publishing two joint papers on these topics.

But besides the work aspect, Western Australia was also a great place to explore and spend time. Jen-Ping was an excellent host (I think we went to every great Asian restaurant in all of Perth) and the weather was pleasant from beginning to end (basically nothing but sunshine for two months). I stayed in a researcher accommodation on campus, which is located a few kilometres away from the city centre directly at the Swan river estuary with lots of green areas and beautiful old trees. Moreover, I got to go on two nice road trips up and down the coast, explore the Margaret River wine region, see quokkas on Rottnest Island and snorkel in the beautiful Ningaloo Reeve national reserve with an infinite amount of fish, stingrays and even a big sea turtle. I also got to see a living colony of stromatolites, microorganisms that are believed to be the oldest form of life on earth dating back 3 billion years, and that can only survive in hypersaline estuaries like Shark Bay in Western Australia. And while there were a few snake and spider sightings, I didn’t have the heart to look up their level of toxicity, so I like to believe it was all safe and sound.

I can definitely recommend looking into the Joint Research Cooperation Scheme (it exists not only between Germany and Australia, but also other countries) and would strongly encourage others to take the opportunity to extend their network and travel, maybe to Perth, it’s a lovely corner of the world. I would like to thank Jen-Ping, Nicole Jones and all other members of this working group for hosting me, showing interest in my research and teaching me about their fields of research.