John Prytherch

Waaaah! Beaten at the final hurdle. Congratulations Vicky!

Favourite Thing: I really enjoy the practical part of my job, getting out of the office and making measurements. In my area of science this normally involves going on a ship to the middle of the ocean and trying to get a large number of delicate sensors to all work properly whilst being blown about and battered with large waves. It can be difficult and frustrating, but it’s also exciting and this is what I love most about my job.



Priory School, Portsmouth, 1993-1997. Southdowns College, 1997-1999.


University of Southampton, PhD Oceanography, 2007-2011. University of Southampton, MRes Ocean Science, 2006-2007. University of Warwick, BSc Mathematics and Physics, 1999-2002.

Work History:

Pearson Education, Sales Rep, 2004-2006.


National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

Current Job:

Oceanographer – Research Scientist

Me and my work

I’m an oceanographer and I use measurements made onboard ships to learn how the ocean and atmosphere affect one another during stormy conditions, when it is challenging to get sensors (and sea sick scientists) to work well.

An audio version of my profile is here: 

The carbon dioxide (CO2) that humans are emitting from, for example, cars and electric power plants, is causing the world to warm. A large amount of the carbon dioxide we are putting into the atmosphere ends up in the ocean.


I’m interested in how fast carbon dioxide moves from the air into the sea, and what things affect the speed of this exchange. Learning more about this will help to improve predictions of climate change. myimage1


In order to do this, my colleagues and I measure how fast the CO2 is moving between the atmosphere and the ocean.myimage3 We also measure all the things we think affect the exchange, such as wind speed and wave breaking. We are especially interested in what happens during storms, where we think there is a lot of CO2 exchange due to the large waves, sea spray etc.

My Typical Day

Writing computer code, writing science papers, sending emails and drinking lots of coffee.

Working at sea is a lot of fun, but most of the time at work I’m on dry land. myimage2 I share an office with another scientist and I work closely with a small team of five people. We often meet up to discuss plans and ideas, but most of the time I work by myself.

Most of the work I do is at a computer, either writing computer code to look at the measurements we have made, or writing scientific papers to tell other people about what we have found out.

Sometimes I am very busy and have to work till late, but normally I have plenty of time to see friends for coffee and lunch breaks and of course, to check facebook 🙂


What I'd do with the money

I’d like to use the money to make a working model of one of our large instruments to show to visitors and schools.

I would like to use the prize money to make a small, working model of one of our instruments: a wave-breaking spar buoy. The real-life spar buoy is about 5 metres tall, and we use it measure wave breaking at sea by measuring the change in an electrical property of the ocean: the capacitance.


The small model of the buoy would be placed in a wave tank and used to demonstrate how this instrument works. We have several open days when lots of children and adults visit the oceanography centre, and we also have exhibits at festivals, fairs and schools. The spar buoy would be used at all of these.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Optimistic, curious, lucky.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Bon Iver

What is the most fun thing you've done?

I love SCUBA diving, and I’ve been lucky enough to go diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

More wishes of course! Other than that, I’m soon going to be a dad, so my wishes are that all goes well for Mum and baby, and that baby grows up to be a scientist! :)

What did you want to be after you left school?

I had no idea what I wanted to be after school. I’ve always been interested in science but it took me a long time to figure out I wanted to be a scientist.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

I was quite good, I only had a few detentions.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Going on a research cruise to Antarctica and seeing lots of penguins, seals and whales.

Tell us a joke.

How do you make Lady Gaga cry? Poke her face