2022 WHOI Ocean and Climate Innovation Accelerator (OCIA) Research Awards
With the support of Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI), OCIA is awarding annual grants to internal WHOI investigators at two levels: Incubation Awards provide up to $100,000 in seed funding to support design, exploration, and/or early execution of new, cutting-edge scientific initiatives; and Acceleration Awards provide up to $300,000 each to expand successful or mature programs of cutting-edge scientific initiatives.
OCIA Acceleration Awards (up to $300k each)
Sea-level rise and coastal risk reduction: Restoration of coral reefs to enhance coastal protection
Konrad Hughen and Helen Fredricks (Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry)
Coral reefs provide substantial protection for coastal areas endangered by wave damage and flooding, but reefs are increasingly threatened by environmental changes and are observed to be in decline around the world. Efforts to repopulate dead reefs with juvenile coral recruits benefit from selecting coral colonies known to be resistant to environmental stress. However, new techniques are needed to rapidly and efficiently screen for sensitive versus resistant corals.
This proposed research will improve efforts to repopulate damaged coral reefs and enhance protection of coastal areas from rising sea level. We will analyze the lipidomes (the range and type of lipids in cells) of corals that have been exposed to various stressors and are known to be either resistant or susceptible to stress in order to develop new tools for identifying strong candidates for reef recruitment. These proposed efforts will greatly increase efficiency in screening coral recruits for repopulating damaged reefs and maintaining healthy, physically robust reef ecosystems. If successful, the coral lipid stress biomarkers obtained will be transformative and provide powerful and widely applicable tools for proposals to NSF and NOAA for reef restoration projects that help improve coastal protection for communities globally.
OCIA Incubation Awards (up to $100k each)
A low-cost ultrasonic sensor for monitoring coastal flooding and sea level
Sarah B. Das (Geology and Geophysics) and Christopher G. Piecuch, (Physical Oceanography)
Rates of sea-level rise have accelerated in the past 60 years. Coastal communities in the United States are experiencing coastal flooding more often than they did in the past, with impacts on transportation, property, and public health and safety. Towns and cities are investing heavily in coastal resiliency and adaptation to climate change and sea-level rise. However, only limited coastal water-level observations exist for ground-truthing the models that support these planning and preparedness decisions. This raises the question whether coastal communities have the real-world data they need to plan and prepare.
We envision a future in which coastal towns and cities are equipped with networks of coastal water sensors that provide data to inform policy and response; that validate coastal flood risk models; and that advance understanding of coastal flooding and its relation to storm surge, tides, and mean sea-level rise. Seed funding from an OCIA incubation award will support the development of the prototype sensor technology and deployment near existing NOAA tide gauges at Nantucket and Fall River. Lessons learned will serve as a springboard for the future development of networks of sensors that will be robust, low cost, and situated in public spaces to enhance visibility. This will lead to more equitable solutions and catalyze collaborations between scientists, engineers, marine operations, and community stakeholders.
Examining salt marsh resilience to accelerated rates of sea-level rise: the early Holocene as an analog
Jeff Donnelly (Geology and Geophysics)
Salt marshes are thought to be threatened by ever-increasing rates of sea-level rise (SLR). In Southeast Massachusetts the rate of SLR has tripled since pre-industrial times and is forecast to triple again by 2100 CE. Rates of SLR of the magnitude forecast have not been experienced since 7000 to 10,000 years ago (the early Holocene). Many researchers have predicted widespread marsh loss is likely over the coming decades as marshes fail to keep up with SLR. Controversially, recent modeling studies have indicated that salt marshes may be able to accrete vertically at much higher than modern rates of SLR, allowing them to keep up with projected increases in SLR.
We plan to initiate a high-risk study aimed at determining if large-scale salt marshes existed in the early Holocene as a means of testing the hypothesis that these systems are capable of accreting vertically at rates sufficient to keep up with high rates of SLR (i.e., >5 mm/year). Recent high-resolution geophysical mapping of Buzzards Bay supports identification of coastal geometries favorable for marsh development in the early Holocene. In addition, sub-bottom sonar data provides evidence of potential salt-marsh sequences preserved in these ancient embayments. We will collect sediment cores from these targets and map salt marsh sequences, should they exist, examine the community structure and sediment characteristics, and determine the rate of ancient marsh accretion. If successful, this novel research has the potential to attract additional support from both federal agencies and foundations.
A pressure sensor capable of measuring sea-level rise
Jason A. Kapit and Anna P. M. Michel (Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering); Raymond W. Schmitt (Physical Oceanography)
Within decades, rising seas could become one of the greatest socio-economic challenges the world faces. Yet, it is still difficult for scientists to quantify the magnitude of the threat at both regional and global scales. This difficulty stems from the large uncertainty in satellite altimetry and gravimetric data used to measure sea level from space, as well as inadequate performance of in-situ measurement technologies. As a result, the uncertainty in individual sea level measurements is typically on the order of centimeters, while the current rate of sea-level rise is ~3 mm per year. It can take decades for regional or global sea level trends to emerge, but waiting this long to make policy changes or to reverse course is simply not an option.
We propose to begin development of a new pressure-sensing instrument that will help address these challenges. By utilizing highly precise and stable optical technologies, this sensor would have the ability to detect sub-millimeter sea level changes over both short and long timescales. Such a measurement has recently been the focus of increasing interest, as it would add a precise measurement to the existing body of sea level data and thus substantially reduce uncertainty in measuring and predicting future sea levels.
Incubating a remote sensing solution for coastal risk reduction: Retooling the high-frequency radar into a dynamic coastal sensing mesh
Anthony Kirincich (Physical Oceanography)
Human use and stewardship of the coastal ocean is intimately linked to our ability to measure and predict changes on time scales as varied as hours and decades. Our response and mitigation of the coastal risks stemming from pounding waves, erosion, and flooding is as critical as our adaptations to annual and longer-term changes in salt marshes, coastal barriers, and circulation that impact the coastal ocean’s carbon cycle. Reducing these coastal risks requires more sensors that are more adaptable and more densely deployed within the coastal zone. Land-based high frequency radars (HFRs) have great potential to increase our situational awareness of a wide range of ocean processes on all time scales, but suffer from high platform cost, limited product availability, and low network reliability.
The long-term goal of this project is to enable dense, distributed networks of single- or multi-channel radio systems capable of making a wide range of critically needed coastal ocean observations, from high-resolution estimates of winds and waves, to storm surge and tsunami sensing, to improved estimates of the surface currents that HFRs have traditionally measured. These products will help society improve protection of coastal zone and reduce risk within this rapidly changing environment, provided we can rapidly increase the scale at which we deploy HFRs. This incubation award will develop and test a proof-of-concept set of equipment and associated software that reduces the installed footprint of HFRs while maximizing its scalability, thereby enabling a new class of coastal processes to be studied.
Sentinels of ice-ocean exchange: Development of a reusable iceberg science platform
Catherine Walker and Derek Buffitt (Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering)
Icebergs are fascinating to a broad audience, but their scientific value is often overlooked. This value is at least twofold: A better understanding of iceberg evolution and dynamics from both the pale- and future-climate perspectives offers the potential to characterize global climate impacts of changing ice cover, and they can be used to probe aspects of the current state of ice-ocean, polar coastal, and climate systems that are often difficult to study. In this way, icebergs are essentially self-contained, in-situ climate laboratories, but they remain grossly under-explored.
We propose to develop a novel, in-situ iceberg monitoring platform (tentatively, the IMP) that will enable long-term monitoring of icebergs as they calve and drift out to sea. Such a system will have two main benefits: It would enable first-of-its-kind iceberg and ice-ocean exchange science, and it would form the basis for a a state-of-the art system that will become an operational asset for the institution. The proposed development work would take place in WHOI’s Autonomous Vehicles and Sensor Technologies (AVAST) facility, where we would use existing resources to accelerate the fabrication and testing phases of the concept. In addition, use of AVAST will allow for better documentation and archiving of the design, establishing WHOI as the homebase for this new capability and its iterations going forward.
Interested in becoming a consortium member?
“Through OCIA, we are committed to engaging ADI’s engineers and technologies to advance knowledge of the oceans, in order to gain a better understanding of how oceans are impacted by climate change and to develop solutions to restore ocean health. By doing so, we hope to drive meaningful impact on the global fight against climate change.”
- Vincent Roche, ADI