Victoria Preston

I am a postdoctoral investigator at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering. My research aims to embed intelligent decision-making into the modern scientific (robotic) fleet that studies the environment around us and on other planets. I'm particularly passionate about enabling the study of spatiotemporal phenomena, such as the distribution of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or particulate plumes in the deep ocean, which defines a new frontier in observational planetary sciences. Through close collaboration with environmental scientists, engineers, and impacted communities, I am excited to be working towards a future of democratized environmental data, equitable access to robotic technologies, novel environmental exploration, and advancement of urgently needed solutions to climate change.

I completed my doctoral work in December 2022 as a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program (MIT-WHOI JP), in which I split my time between the MIT AeroAstro department and the WHOI Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering department. I work with the Robust Robotics Group led by Nicholas Roy (MIT) and the Chemical Sensors Laboratory led by Anna Michel (WHOI) on research at the intersection of artificial intelligence, machine learning, environmental science, and numerical modeling. My thesis proposed a novel, field-tested autonomy system for mapping the space-time structure of hydrothermal plumes in the deep ocean using state-of-the-art autonomous underwater vehicles which lack adaptive agency. Using a physically-informed long-horizon predictive model trained from data of opportunity while at sea, simple trajectories were optimized to track a predicted plume path over a given deployment window. I gratefully recognize the support of a NDSEG Fellowship and a Martin Family Society for Sustainability Fellowship for my studies.

Collecting samples in Cambridge Bay with a shore-pump Prepping for estuary sampling A cold day for ChemYak trials in Cambridge Bay

Aerial geochemical sampling trials ChemYak sniffing around near the ice edge