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Science Journey: Exploring Our Blue Planet Using Underwater Robots

Lily Dove
PhD '23, Environmental Science and Engineering
Resnick Scholar

About the Topic

Climate Science and Sustainability • Oceanography

The ocean plays a vital role as a central hub in Earth's climate system. Humanity is emitting large volumes of carbon and heat that are absorbed by Earth's climate system and cause increasingly irregular and dangerous weather patterns. About 40 percent of the carbon that humans emit into the atmosphere through industrial processes, such as burning fossil fuels, ultimately ends up in the ocean. The ocean is now half a degree warmer than it was only 100 years ago.

Oceanographers like Lily Dove conduct research on the ocean to better understand how it is changing as a result of absorbing carbon and heat. The data Dove and her colleagues collect help farmers, fisher people, and the shipping and energy industries plan for activities in the face of a changing climate. The information also helps researchers understand the interplay between the atmosphere and the ocean.

To assist with their research and data collection, oceanographers use many tools. A CTD-rosette, for example, is an instrument that measures the conductivity (saltiness), temperature, and depth of water from different parts of the ocean. Autonomous profiling floats push the boundaries of data collection by traveling further into the ocean for longer periods of time, allowing data to be collected in more remote areas while keeping scientists safe from harsh environments.

Watch the presentation to learn more about Dove's path into science, including two teachers who influenced her journey.

About the Speaker

A picture of Lily Dove as a child, next to the helm of a ship

Lily Dove graduated in 2023 with her PhD in physical oceanography in the Environmental Science and Engineering department at Caltech. Her scientific research focuses on describing how carbon dioxide exchanges between the atmosphere, surface ocean, and interior ocean. She is a sea-going oceanographer and has spent more than 100 days at sea deploying scientific instruments, collecting data, and working along other scientists. Outside of work, Lily has done outreach in Pasadena-area middle schools and is an advocate for increasing access to oceanography for historically marginalized students.

Lily grew up in Florida, where she attended public high school and played in the marching band. She went on to study Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science at MIT and found a passion for doing research around the globe with scientists of all backgrounds. Over the past 10 years, Lily has done scientific research at institutions in seven different countries. When she's not traveling across the world or in the lab, Lily enjoys reading fantasy novels and spending time with her friends, family, and cat.

Recommended Media

Interested in oceanography but don't know where to begin? Lily Dove recommends the following:

About the Series

In Science Journeys, Caltech graduate students and postdoctoral scholars share their research to inspire scientific curiosity. Programs are designed for middle and high schoolers, but all are welcome.

These programs are made possible through the generosity of the Friends of Beckman Auditorium and cosponsor Caltech Employees Federal Credit Union.

If you have questions, please email Mary Herrera at

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