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Employee Portrait Gallery—Nan Galbraith

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Nan Galbraith received the Linda Morse-Porteous Award in 2004 for excellent work, leadership, dedication, serving as a role model, and involvement in the WHOI community. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst)


A data manager who once plotted gravity anomalies on a drawing board, Nan Galbraith now monitors near-real-time data from open-ocean moorings on the Web using an automated system she designed.  She is currently a member of the Upper Ocean Processes Group in the Physical Oceanography Department. The principal moorings she works with are located off Barbados, Hawaii, and the coast of Chile, and another will be set in the Gulf Stream in November.

Nan joined WHOI Graphic Services as a multi-media technician in 1973, not long after graduating from Swarthmore College. She enjoyed a variety of graphics assignments, including a project Carl Bowin was undertaking to create a huge (“nearly life-size,” Nan says) world map of gravity anomalies. She joined Carl’s lab to work on this project, and was soon off on a gravity cruise to the Banda Sea.  She says that, on board the Atlantis II, she was bitten by the seagoing bug.

Working with the CTD Group and running Terry Joyce’s prototype Acoustic Profiler of Ocean Currents kept her at sea for about three months a year through the 1980s.

When the responsibilities of her job suggested a promotion to programmer, Nan found that one of the requirements was knowledge of assembly language. She set about organizing a course so she and others could master assembly, thus beginning a practice of arranging for classes to keep WHOI staff members’ technical skills up-to-date. A college English major, Nan’s resumé now lists programming expertise in Perl, shell, C, HTML, Java, Matlab, IDL, and other languages.

Nan considers herself lucky to have been able to work on the Web when the Internet was developing as a scientific tool.  She counts among her accomplishments building one of the first interactive Web-based data servers at WHOI. Current projects include an endeavor with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute called the Marine Metadata Interoperability Project. She is also part of the OceanSITES Data Management team, an international effort to facilitate access to data from open-ocean moorings. True to form, she is now pursuing training in “Web services,” a system that allows computers to interact without human intervention to share data computer-to-computer. 

Off the job, Nan donates her time and skills to provide Web sites for nonprofit groups, and she will attend her first Falmouth Town Meeting as an elected member in the fall.













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