Researcher and data manager
Ellyn Montgomery has always been fascinated by exploration and the oceans. After earning her undergraduate degree from Colby College in 1981, she moved to Woods Hole to see what seagoing research was really like. Ellyn initially assisted in studies of migratory trout and salmon in eastern Quebec at WHOI’s Matamek field station (which was sold in 1988).
After that, she participated in a variety of WHOI experimental programs, learning about computers, instrumentation, programming, and analysis methods along the way. During this time, she realized that observational oceanography, a field where voyages of discovery are the norm, was a good match for her interests and skills. Expertise in collecting high-quality oceanographic data has taken Ellyn to many interesting ports over the years, from Micronesia to sail on a Chinese research vessel, to Senegal to work on a French ship, to southern Chile to board a U.S. icebreaker bound for Antarctica.
For the last fifteen years she’s been the instrument expert and data analyst for the high-resolution profiler, a one-of–a-kind instrument that measures physical properties of the ocean, working with Kurt Polzin, Ray Schmitt, and John Toole. Ellyn finds that addressing the issues associated with making instrumentation operate reliably at sea and produce exceptional data is challenging and interesting.
The most satisfying part of her work is when observations obtained by the profiler lead to new insights into how the oceans work. One example was finding a dynamic region of enhanced deep mixing over the rough topography of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where no observations of turbulence had ever been made. The patterns of mixing measured by the profiler have led to entirely new insights into the deep circulation of the ocean. In 2000, Ellyn was honored with the Linda Morse-Porteous Award, which recognizes the dedication and excellence of women on the Technical Staff.
Originally published: February 1, 2005