SEA Days: Diving Deeper with Scientists

by Camila Pauda, Volunteer Programs Assistant

Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days! As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography or UC San Diego researcher and get hands-on with Scripps science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft.

You are cordially invited to April’s SEA Days event, “Party for the Planet,” a fun and educational party in honor of Earth Day! April’s theme continues that of last month (ocean acidification and climate change) and will be all about atmospheric chemistry! Atmospheric chemistry is the study of the makeup of the atmosphere, the abundance and distribution of greenhouse gasses, air pollutants, aerosol particles, and the changes induced by natural and anthropogenic (human-produced) processes. This is an important topic in the study of Earth’s atmosphere and the underlying chemical processes because it affects the environment through pathways such as air-sea exchange.

Our visiting scientist for SEA Days this month is Dr. Timothy Bertram, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC San Diego. Dr. Bertram teaches environmental chemistry and general chemistry and his lab focuses on atmospheric chemistry, climate change, and environmental sustainability. I recently sat down with Dr. Bertram to “dive deeper” into his area of expertise and to find out what he will be bringing to SEA Days.


Where did you go to college?
I got my B.A. from Colby College in Waterville, ME, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

What is your area of research?
My research group focuses on field observations of trace gases and aerosol with a specific focus on the factors that control oxidant loadings in the lowest portion of Earth’s atmosphere (known as the troposphere).

Who or what inspired you to become involved in atmospheric chemistry/marine science?
While I have always had a keen interest in environmental processes, it was while working as a Research Technician at the University of Hawaii that I refined this vision.  This was largely due to the mentoring of Professor Barry Huebert.

What qualities do you need in order to become a scientist?
Creativity, confidence, determination, and an abundance of curiosity.

Why is your research topic important?
Our research focuses on determining factors that control the lifetime of a host of greenhouse gases and the production rates of criteria air pollutants.  As such, our research efforts are relevant to both advancing our understanding of Earth’s climate and urban air quality.Bertram_teach

What will you be bringing with you to SEA days?
I am still deciding what exactly to bring, but likely will have an array of portable sensors for measuring atmospheric particulates and trace gases.

What is the best advice you have for people interested in becoming involved in your field of research?
Study the fundamentals and make every effort to get into a laboratory as soon as possible.  This is where the topics you learn in school are shaped into problem solving skills.

What is your favorite ocean organism?
As an atmospheric chemist, the biology of the ocean is a complete mystery to me.


Join us on Saturday, April 19 for SEA Days: Party for the Planet—there’s something for everyone!

SEA Days are 11 a.m – 3 p.m., are included with aquarium admission, and always free to aquarium members. Not a member? Join today!

SEA you there!

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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego