Freedom of inquiry and growth opportunities.”
Riding the Current on a Shark Fin
Our researchers don’t actually chase sharks, but they do track them throughout the world’s oceans. At APL, researchers use information from sharks to discover more and more about the innerworkings of the ocean. Principal Oceanographer Peter (Pete) Gaube dives deep into how oceanic currents affect these pelagic predators, and what their travels can tell us about the ocean’s currents.
Peter Gaube joined APL’s Air-Sea Interaction and Remote Sensing (AIRS) Department in 2015. Before his arrival at APL, Pete’s research involved satellite tags attached to Great White sharks. These tags enabled Pete to follow their travels in coastal waters and the open ocean. Pete then used the data from the tags to gain ocean current retrievals based on satellite measurements in conjunction with eddies. Arriving at APL in 2015, Pete was able to continue this thread, combining his past tracking work with the conditions and processes of physical oceanography to pursue a new goal: finding new technology to measure how life moves through the ocean.
Pete and his team in APL’s AIRS department continue to use satellite ocean data with the movement of pelagic predators. These aquatic animals never associate with land, instead they move with currents. The currents establish the environment for these animals, thereby controlling their lives. By following these animals, we can go deeper into how the current affects their lives, and therefore gain further insight into ocean currents, to include temperature, conductivity, depth, and the quality of the water.
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Dive into the icy waters with Peter Gaube and the team of NASA’s SASSIE (Salinity and Stratification at the Sea Ice Edge) 2022 Arctic Expedition!
Meet Peter Gaube
B.A. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, M.S. Physical Oceanography, Ph.D. Oceanography
How I came to APL-UW
I read about the research at APL during my Ph.D. program. During my time at Woods Hole, I applied to APL in hopes of gaining leverage at Woods Hole at the time. I didn’t know that I’d be drawn into APL so much. The work being done truly intrigued me. I accepted a position in 2015 after falling in love with the Pacific Northwest and realizing that the lifestyle here was the best for me and my family.
Standout moment (so far)
Not much of a “moment,” but always appreciating the freedom of inquiry at APL. I get to decide what I want to study. I feel like I’m supported by different people at APL in all different departments. There’s so much support infrastructure here and it really struck me. People are willing to work with us to make our research and science possible.
In the past years, I’ve worked with a summer internship program with the Makah Tribe. The Makah Fisheries Management (MFM) Internship Program is an earth science and natural fisheries internship for college bound students. It’s an opportunity for scientists to come out to the Tribe’s reservation and help students participate in science. I have the opportunity to work with their students with tagging and drones. It’s an opportunity to help people do what they want to do in their community.
Pete was always drawn to the ocean. As a child, he dreamed of being a marine biologist. Raised within academia by a college professor, he knew he wanted to pursue a life in academia, studying water. With that, Pete went into college knowing his end goal was to study the ocean. Pete earned his B.A. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Arizona in 2003. He then went on to Nova Southeastern University, where he earned his M.S. in Physical Oceanography in 2007. In order to reach his goal of working in oceanography, Pete says, “I had to show that I could do math. I learned all the math I could in my Ph.D.” Pete earned his Ph.D. – or as he puts it, his “license to hustle” – in oceanography through Oregon State University.
Throughout his Ph.D., Pete read research papers from APL. At the time, he was working at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. He enjoyed working with Woods Hole, but was not keen to the Massachusetts environment. Despite not liking the area, Pete actually wanted to further pursue a career with Woods Hole but felt he needed leverage. With that in mind, Pete applied to APL with the intention of gaining further leverage at Woods Hole, while still keeping an open mind of relocating.
Through his application process, Pete met the people at AIRS and was incredibly intrigued. He also loved the Pacific Northwest. Quickly realizing that the Pacific Northwest lifestyle was best for him, Pete gladly accepted a position with APL in 2015 and hasn’t looked back since.
Being at APL, Pete describes his life including oceanography and not revolving around oceanography. He’s able to invest more time with his family and truly be home.
Mixing math with sharks, tagging cool animals… I build stuff, I collect cool things. It’s all because of the support infrastructure at APL.”