AOPE Research Overview


The Department of Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering pursues excellence in science and technology across multiple disciplines.  Following are research descriptions for six AOPE staff who achieved career milestones in 2013.

Results of Rich Camilli's research

Figure 1. Results of Richard Camilli’s research on autonomous identification of ocean ecosystems at a seafloor ‘pingo’ (a conical hill or mound) at a depth of 850 m in the Pacific Ocean. Red stars indicate autonomously identified areas of chemosynthetic ecosystems (Camilli et al., EOS, 2010).

Richard Camilli's research focuses on developing and applying robotic technologies for in-situ sensing. He often couples chemical sensing with autonomy to enable real-time situational awareness in regions that are too dangerous or costly to observe using conventional oceanographic methods.  His work has demonstrated utility in a variety of contexts, including assessment of environmental pollution from the Deepwater Horizon, as well as discovering extreme life forms in the deep ocean (Figure 1). Rich is now investigating principles of resiliency and cognition to expand real-time marine observation. His goal is to transition these concepts into low-cost sensing that uses cooperative autonomy to efficiently transition between fully autonomous and human supervisory control in complex environments. Rich was promoted to Associate Scientist with Tenure on October 9, 2013.

The ring of doom

Figure 2. The “Ring of Doom” vorticity meter, developed by David Clark and colleagues, is lowered into the surfzone by helicopter, while swimmers wait offshore to secure the ring after it is released. (Photo by MIT-WHOI Joint Program student Anna Wargula)

Pushing the boundaries of instrumentation in strong currents and breaking waves, David Clark studies the processes by which pollutants, nutrients, and suspended materials are transported within and across the surfzone. David collaborated with WHOI scientists Steve Elgar and Britt Raubenheimer to develop and deploy a new vorticity sensor, the "Ring of Doom," which measures how breaking waves generate the powerful eddies that are primarily responsible for the rapid transport and dispersion that occurs within the surfzone.  A month-long deployment off Duck, North Carolina (Figure 2) encountered waves ranging from lake-like to four-meter monsters during nor'easters. This broad range of forcing will allow David to document, quantify and analyze the eddy response to the size and shape of the breaking waves. David was appointed as an Assistant Scientist on August 26, 2013.

Lee Freitag and Peter Koski on the ice in the Fram Strait with an acoustic recorder.

Figure 3. Lee Freitag and Peter Koski on the ice in the Fram Strait with an acoustic recorder.

In September 2013, Lee Freitag participated in a cruise aboard the Norwegian Coast Guard Ice Breaker KV Svalbard, transiting to 82° N, east of the northern tip of Greenland. There, in collaboration with colleagues from the Nansen Centre in Norway, Lee tested a new ice-based acoustic navigation system (Figure 3), which must, unlike conventional systems, transmit position in addition to other information because it moves with the ice. Lee heads the acoustic communications group in AOPE and led the development of the low-frequency (900 Hz) system through several years of engineering and testing.  The first demonstration will be during spring and summer of 2014, when eight of the acoustic transmitters will be deployed on the ice in the Beaufort Sea. Lee was promoted to Principal Engineer on October 9, 2013.

Recent tests in Buzzards Bay demonstrating coordinated AUV-ASV operations.

Figure 4. Recent tests in Buzzards Bay demonstrating coordinated AUV-ASV operations. Left, Engineer Stefano Suman and Summer Student Fellow Abhimanyu Belani launch an AUV. Right, Peter Koski, James Kinsey, and Michael Jakuba perform last minute checks before launching the ASV.

James Kinsey’s research focuses on new robotics methods for investigating the ocean, especially navigation, control, autonomy, and sensor development. He has recently reported new methods for incorporating vehicle dynamics into navigation and shown that these methods improve our ability to obtain underway gravity measurements with autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).  A recent project is coordinated navigation and communication between an AUV and an autonomous surface vessel (ASV), which will enable AUVs to remain submerged for extended periods, thereby providing a persistent presence. Recent experiments (Figure 4) showed that the ASV could externally aid AUV navigation and serve as a communication relay between the AUV and remotely located human operators. James was promoted to Associate Scientist on October 9, 2013.

The Pioneer Central Coastal Surface Mooring

Figure 5. The Pioneer Central Coastal Surface Mooring, deployed on the Pioneer I cruise in November, 2013.

Paul Matthias is the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) Coastal Global Scale Nodes (CGSN) Program Manager at WHOI. The OOI, a billion-dollar 25-year project funded by the National Science Foundation, is planned as a network of science-driven sensor systems to measure the physical, chemical, geological and biological variables in the ocean, atmosphere and seafloor. CGSN is responsible for the coastal Pioneer Array off New England and for deep-water arrays in the Northeast Pacific, Irminger Sea, Southern Ocean, and Argentine Basin. The first Northeast Pacific and Pioneer deployments (Figure 5) occurred in 2013. Paul brings industrial experience in engineering and management that is essential for success in this complex program. Paul was appointed as a Program Engineer Manager on January 22, 2013.

Turbulence tower deployed by Malcolm Scully during the fall of 2013 in Chesapeake Bay.

Figure 6. Turbulence tower deployed by Malcolm Scully during the fall of 2013 in Chesapeake Bay. The tower makes detailed measurements of turbulent mixing and circulation associated with internal waves (waves below the surface) and Langmuir circulation (a pattern of rotating circulation created by wind), as part of a study of the wind-driven dynamics in Chesapeake Bay.

The focus of Malcolm Scully’s research is circulation and turbulent mixing in coastal and estuarine environments. Much of Malcolm’s recent work has been on water mixing in Chesapeake Bay, to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the processes that control the variability of low dissolved oxygen water (hypoxia). Through a combination of numerical simulations and direct field observations, Malcolm demonstrated an important previously unrecognized mechanism by which wind forcing mediates the inter-annual severity of hypoxia in Chesapeake Bay. Using data collected on a series of recent research cruises (Figure 6), Malcolm has documented and quantified the importance of mixing by internal waves and Langmuir circulation.  Malcolm was appointed as an Associate Scientist on January 2, 2013.

John Trowbridge, Department Chair