The Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering (AOPE) Department is one of the foremost
departments in the world in producing ocean instruments, sensors,
and vehicles. We also take pride in our growing reputation
in interdisciplinary ocean science and engineering. The Department’s
broad spectrum of activities revolves around five central
themes: ocean acoustics and signal processing, environmental
fluid dynamics, submersible vehicles, observing systems and
sensors, and engineering services.
Environmental issues have loomed large in oceanography in
recent years, and the 2005 huge red tide bloom in New England
waters, which closed shellfish beds from central Maine to
Massachusetts, provided a large, societally important issue
for oceanographers to deal with. AOPE Associate Scientist
Dennis McGillicuddy spent a large amount of his summer mapping
this red tide bloom, and, as a result of both his observations
and the numerical models he uses to interpret them, was able
to contribute significantly to our understanding of how these
harmful outbreaks work. Such efforts will hopefully lead to
means of mitigation and perhaps even prevention.
Surf-zone oceanographers Steve Elgar and Britt Raubenheimer
tackled a different coastal problem for the Navy: How do large
craters (30 feet wide by 6 feet deep) on a beach—such
as those produced by bombardment—erode under wave action?
The fieldwork was quite challenging because Steve and Britt
had to quickly instrument a hole they dug as the waves worked
furiously to destroy their “anti-sand castle.”
In acoustics, AOPE scientists Tim Stanton, Dezhang Chu, and
others deployed a new broadband acoustic system that allows
researchers to both quantify and classify fish populations.
This system, which utilizes the acoustic resonances of fish
swim bladders as a signal, promises to significantly improve
the rapidly growing field of fish population assessment.
In a combination of AOPE’s Remote Environmental Monitoring
Units (REMUS) autonomous underwater vehicle technology and
ocean acoustics, Boston University (BU) Guest Student Jason
Holmes and Adjunct Scientist Bill Carey teamed up with AOPE
personnel to attach a towed acoustic array to the REMUS vehicle,
a smaller version of the systems towed by submarines. This
advanced technology has allowed AOPE and BU researchers to
carefully characterize ocean bottom acoustic reflectivity
properties, and should eventually prove of great value to
the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare and mine-hunting missions.
Our department’s future is determined largely by the
new principal investigators we hire, and representing that
new blood we welcomed sensor experts Sheri White and Rich
Camilli, inverse theorist Gonzalo Feijoo to the scientific
staff, and marine archaeologist Brendan Foley to the technical
staff. These people represent not just new faces, but new
directions for our department, and help keep our department
an exciting and innovative place to work. We hope 2005 was
just the beginning of a long and rewarding career for them.
—James F. Lynch, Department Chair