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COI Funded Project: Exploring the feasibility of glider-based transport, stratification, and ecology measurements on the New England shelf between MVCO and Line W

Project Funded: 2006

The continental shelf from Nova Scotia to Cape Hatteras is one of the most productive ecosystems on Earth. This high productivity is based on a complex set of chemical and biological interactions that begin with nutrients and plankton, and which are critically linked to the physics of water motion and mixing. Because human populations along this coastline continue to increase, the demand for coastal resources (e.g., fisheries, properties, and recreation areas) is growing at the sametime that human-induced disturbances (e.g., nutrient loading, contaminant inputs, and introduced species) are increasing. Improved scientific understanding is sorely needed as the basis for responsible stewardship of this system in the face of societal concerns and as yet unpredictable consequences of climate change°.

Previous work, both moored and ship-based, has indicated the need for both highly-resolved spatial measurements (to describe features on scales of 1-10 km) and a sustained at-sea presence (to capture episodic events and facilitate robust statistical inferences). Ship-based measurements on the continental shelf are generally expensive and weather dependent. Moored observations generally lack spatial resolution. Autonomous vehicles, when used appropriately relative to their inherent capabilities, can provide sustained, low-cost, and robust measurements of key physical and biological variables. A question of particular relevance at the present moment is: “How can these novel assets be most effectively employed in coastal observing systems?”

We propose to study, from both scientific and engineering perspectives, the feasibility of using autonomous gliders for regular collection of physical and bio-optical properties along a 200 km transect spanning the continental shelf and connecting the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO) with the Line W moored climate array. The proposed work constitutes an important step in the development of an integrated and sustainable regional observing system capable of resolving physical and biological variability on timescales from days to decades.

This proposal requests support for the salary, shiptime, and expendables required to complete and analyze a series of feasibility experiments totaling more than 200 glider-days at sea.

° Portions of this paragraph excerpted from a pending Coastal Ocean Institute Initiative Proposal submitted by H. Sosik et al.

Originally published: October 1, 2006