Developing a Compact, Water-column Discrete Sample Collection (DiSC) System for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles


DOEI Funded Research: 2010


The goal of this project is to develop a new scientific sampling tool for Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) enabled science missions.  This is the next technical evolution of the sampling methodology exemplified by the DOEI funded Suspended Particulate Rosette sampler that is being used with great success to study both geochemical and microbial processes within rising hydrothermal plumes during Remotely Operated Vehicle deployments.  This new AUV tool is intended to enable sample collection, in a sensor-triggered “Smart-sampling” mode, during multi-depth, vent field scale surveys – where sensor (T, light transmission, in situ mass spectrometry) and data resulting from samples collected with this system can be synthesized with modeling products, to produce vent field scale estimates of heat, water, and chemical fluxes.  This new tool is also intended to enable studies that use predeployed AUVs (loitering for months to years), to conduct scientific surveys and collect samples in response to tectonic and volcanic events – a task that looks forward to the commencement of scientific operations within the OOI Regional node at Axial Seamount.  This proposal will specifically develop a water and particulate sampling system for highly payload constrained AUVs – and will be targeted for Sentry the design elements and components will be readily reconfigurable for a vehicle such as a Remus 1500 – which is being sought for similar scientific missions with the OOI Pioneer Shelfbreak array.

This new tool will enable unique scientific applications, particularly within the scope of hydrothermal research.  Recent studies suggest that processes active in hydrothermal plumes may significantly affect global ocean budgets (Bennett et al. 2008; Tagliabue et al.  2010).  Years of research also suggest that hydrothermal flux undergoes a predictable evolution, tied to host-rock geochemistry, but driven by tectonic/volcanic cycles.  Recent evidence from post-eruption (2006-2008) EPR sediment traps appears to support this (German et al.  AGU, 2008).  However this hypothesis has not been adequately tested due to the long-term and episodic nature of these processes.  The commencement of scientific operations within the OOI Regional Node framework at Axial Seamount will enable studies that can provide strong tests this and related hypotheses, in part by responding to tectonic and volcanic event with predeployed AUVs and related science packages.