Q&A with Rob Sohn

What is your role in the HD-YLAKE project?

I am the lead-PI for the project. The buck stops here, to quote a phrase. I’m also leading the analysis of the seismic data we will acquire from the lake floor.

Rob Sohn

Rob Sohn

What do you find unique and interesting about Yellowstone National Park?

 Where to start? As a scientist who specializes in hydrothermal systems, Yellowstone is an ideal place to work. The Yellowstone hydrothermal system is very large, and it generates an incredible variety of features, from thermal pools, to fumaroles, to mud pots, to my favorite of all – geysers. On a completely different level, Yellowstone is quite simply one of the most beautiful and unique places I’ve yet to encounter. It has a super abundance of what philosophers call essence.

What new things do you hope to learn over the course of the project?

I’m hoping to get a grasp of how the hydrothermal system on the floor of Yellowstone Lake responds to perturbations. The lake floor vents are continually perturbed by things like waves on the lake surface, seasonal changes in lake level, and earthquakes, and understanding the cause-and-effect relationships between the hydrothermal system and these perturbations will help us understand details about how the fluids circulate beneath the Earth’s surface (for example, the fluid pathways, fluid velocity, fluid composition, etc.).

How did you become interested in your field of study?

In 1990 I was working as an acoustics engineer for the Douglas Aircraft Company in Long Beach, CA, and I was getting bored with my job. At the time I was an avid surfer, and I was watching a surfing show on ESPN on a Saturday morning that featured the ‘Surfing Scientists of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.’ Apparently there were scientists who had surfboards in their office located right on the beach in front of a good surf spot, and they surfed all the time. That sounded pretty good to me, and it turns out acoustics is a really important field in oceanography, so I started looking into it. To make a long story short, I applied to grad school at Scripps, got in, and the rest is history.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Its funny how that’s changed over time. I used to do a lot of surfing and rock climbing but then I moved to Cape Cod and got older. Now I like to paddle my canoe, play guitar, and make cocktails. I also enjoy spending time with my daughters (shout out to Cassidy and Sintra!) and the wonderful Jainee Hocking.