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Live From the Tropics: New Underwater Observatory Monitors Marine Ecosystem off Panama

April 1, 2006

A new cabled observatory off the island of Canales de Tierra is the latest in a series of underwater laboratories that can monitor marine ecosystems over long periods and transmit live images and data back to scientists around the world. Swimming with the fishes in Panama is a virtual reality for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists who installed the Panama Liquid Jungle Laboratory Underwater Tropical Observatory, better known as PLUTO, in January 2006.  An electro-optical cable runs power and data between a shore-based facility (the Liquid Jungle Laboratory) and a node 60 feet (18 meters) below the sea surface about a mile offshore. Plugged into the node are sensors to continuously measure the temperature, salinity, pH, and turbidity of the water, as well as currents, chlorophyll, oxygen, and light levels.