|Enlarge ImageREMUS (Remote Environmental Monitoring UnitS), designed and built by scientists and engineers in the WHOI Oceanographic Systems Laboratory, are autonomous underwater vehicles that survey at various depths. They have been used widely for scientific, industry, and military operations. (Photo by Chris Linder, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has established a new Office for Applied Oceanography to foster applied research supported by sources beyond traditional governmental agencies.
To sustain growth in an era of flat federal funding for basic research, “we seek to enable scientists and engineers at WHOI to pursue a wider array of applied research opportunities by making connections with industry partners, foreign governments, and U.S. government agencies like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, for example, which fund applied research,” said Dan Stuermer, vice president for external relations at WHOI.
“Establishing this office is a way to provide an environment and culture in which scientists and engineers can take advantage of those opportunities.”
“During the Second World War, the vast majority of (WHOI’s) work was defense-related and highly applied—from developing smokescreen methods to protect landing parties to anti-submarine warfare techniques,” acting WHOI Director James Luyten said. “We seek to increase our applied work while maintaining our critical mass in basic research. It’s not an either-or proposition; basic and applied science can coexist.”
Several newly forged projects demonstrate the potential for such coexistence:
- WHOI whale expert Peter Tyack and his WHOI colleagues are partnering with Rite Solutions, a company that received a Small Business Innovative Research grant from the Department of Defense to develop a system to minimize risks to marine mammals during naval exercises using sonar.
- WHOI geophysicist Jian Lin was awarded a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to study basic earthquake mechanisms in Algeria and to train Algerian researchers in an effort to better assess earthquake risks and mitigate disasters in highly populated northern Algerian cities.
- Nautilus Minerals Inc. provided $950,000 to support a research cruise led by WHOI geophysicist Maurice Tivey in July that will use the WHOI-operated underwater vehicles Jason and ABE to explore the biogeochemical phenomena that created gold-rich seafloor deposits 30 miles off Papua New Guinea, to which the company has mining rights.
- Teledyne Benthos, an underwater technology firm, plans to build and market an expendable bathyphotometer to measure bioluminescence in the sea, which was developed and patented by WHOI engineer Paul Fucile.
The Office for Applied Oceanography also helps scientists and engineers protect intellectual property, submit patents, and manage technology transfer and licensing.
Tech Conference Showcases Vehicles, Robots, and Gizmos
Technology enthusiasts had a lot to gawk at during an Ocean Science and
Technology Conference May 24, 2006, at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution:
kayak-shaped crafts that patrol ports for homeland security;
anti-terrorism robot lobsters; and deep-diving vehicles that can work
alone for as long as 72 hours gathering ocean data.
About 150 academics, business entrepreneurs, and government officials
from New England attended the conference, which showcased cutting-edge
marine technology products created by scientists and engineers at WHOI
and other research institutions in Massachusetts. The conference is
part of the Institution’s rising effort at more broadly marketing
intellectual property related to vehicles, instruments, products, and
techniques developed by WHOI oceanographers.
“We need to send a signal that WHOI is open for business in a different
way,” said Jim Luyten, who became acting president and director of WHOI
Tom Austin, a senior engineer in the Oceanographic Systems Laboratory
at WHOI, said conference participants inquired about REMUS, a torpedo
shaped, deep-diving vehicle that carries instruments to monitor marine
WHOI biologist Scott Gallager said several environmental consulting and
manufacturing companies contacted him during and after the conference
to discuss commercialization of an instrument he is working on that
provides early warning for detecting toxins in drinking water.
The event, held in the Clark Laboratory on the Quissett Campus, was
co-produced by WHOI with the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center
and the University of Massachusetts. Sponsors included Raytheon, Ropes
& Gray, Shell, Teledyne Benthos, and Schlumberger.
Posted: October 5, 2006