My mentor and I brainstormed for my first first-author paper post-PhD. During this session, we decided to collect datasets on dissolved inorganic carbon in mangroves and saltmarshes to explore their influence on coastal acidification and carbon sequestration. I was instantly excited about this idea, especially as it followed on the footsteps of my PhD thesis on carbon cycling in mangroves.
I reached out to over 50 researchers, asking them to send me their datasets. Surprisingly, half of them responded, sharing data from as far back as the nineties. Managing a team of 25 co-authors based all around the globe turned out to be a surprisingly positive experience. Everyone contributed in a different way from picking up tiny mistakes to discussing the big questions. We had many in-depth discussions on topics such as the use of different proxies and how to build carbon budgets. After a Zoom meeting spanning various time zones, and the exchange of hundreds of emails, the manuscript was finally ready.
Some findings from our study caught us off guard. The discovery that intertidal wetlands contribute to the acidification of nearby waters was truly unexpected. That there is still a large unaccounted carbon sink in blue carbon budgets also came as a surprise. This experience taught me the value of remaining open-minded and allowing the data itself to guide the trajectory of the research.
The process of writing and publishing this paper coincided with a physically demanding pregnancy and subsequent maternity leave. I worked with nausea, sleep deprivation, or while carrying a sleeping baby. However, unlike my previous studies, which included a lot of field and lab work, this project could be completed from home. A perk of Swedish postdoctoral life that I wish could be an option to all mothers.
I extend my heartfelt gratitude to my husband Michael for always having my back, to Isaac Santos for his exceptional mentorship, and to all my co-authors who supported every step of this rewarding endeavour. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. I now realize it can also take a village to perform science with global impact. This project hopefully leads to more collaboration to address outstanding questions in the emerging field of blue carbon.