Tools & Technology


Rapid Response at Sea

As sea ice continues to melt in the Arctic and oil exploration expands in the region, the possibility of an oil spill occurring under ice is higher than ever. To help first responders cope with oil trapped under ice, ocean engineers are developing undersea vehicles that can map oil spills to improve situational awareness and decision making during an emergency.

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Minion robots in the Ocean Twilight Zone

Phytoplankton use sunlight and carbon dioxide to grow, forming the base of the ocean food web. Phytoplankton are eaten by zooplankton, which are eaten by other animals. Dead zooplankton and other particles become marine snow drifting in the ocean, but how much marine snow sinks below the sun-lit ocean surface? Scientists are developing a new device
that will follow marine snow into the ocean’s twilight zone.

The MINION is a small (2 Liters) inexpensive instrument. It is equipped with… cameras, seawater sensors, acoustic recorder, ballast weight. Once deployed, MINION will sink to the twilight zone and drift with currents.

Cameras on the side record the rate and quantity of particles falling through the ocean. Falling particles also accumulate on a clear glass panel. A camera on top will record the particle type and accumulation rate.

Similar images have revealed the twilight zone is a perpetual snowstorm, of organic debris. Particles such as this fecal pellet from a jellyfish-like salp are extremely carbon-rich. Pellets like this will sink quickly to deeper waters, or even become buried in the seafloor. Any marine snow that reaches the deep ocean means less carbon in the atmosphere.

The MINION is designed to listen for underwater sound sources. This will determine their location as they drift.

After a MINION has finished its mission, it will release weight and float to the surface. At the surface, it sends a homing signal so it can be recovered. The next generation of MINION will send compressed data-sets via satellite. Allowing them to be deployed by the dozens. Data from MINIONS will help scientists learn more about the ocean’s role in Earth’s climate system.

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Local fishermen assist leatherback research

Wicked Local

After several years, Kara Dodge began to do other work with turtles, in particular a “TurtleCam” project with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution engineer Amy Kukulya. The project involved tagging and tailing turtles with autonomous underwater vehicles to study diving behavior, eating habits, and assess ways to reduce entanglements.

What’s it like in a submersible?

It is hard to describe what it’s like to physically travel down to the twilight zone. Both Heidi Sosik, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Ocean Twilight Zone (OTZ) project lead and Joel Llopiz, Associate Scientist, and OTZ lead of the life histories and behavior theme went down in a submersible for the first time to experience the twilight zone. They were able to able to observe beautiful jellies and small fishes like bristlemouths, hatchetfish, and lanternfish, all in their natural habitat.

This was part of a mission in spring of 2019 where several members of the OTZ Project team conducted an expedition aboard OceanX’s research vessel, the M/V Alucia, out of the Bahamas. The main goal of the expedition was to examine how the OTZ project site off the coast of New England differs from this distant –yet connected– region of the twilight zone. The team worked closely with OceanX to share their journey through video diaries and photographs of the extraordinary creatures brought on board throughout the cruise. The Ocean Twilight Zone is supported the Audacious Project, a collaborative endeavor, housed at TED, to surface and fund ideas with the potential to create change at thrilling scale.

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What is the story behind Mesobot?

Mesobot is designed to let scientists observe the twilight zone by autonomously tracking individual animals for hours or even days without disturbing the environment or disrupting their behavior, making it possible to follow individual animals as they take part in the great migration from the twilight zone to the surface and back each day. Mesobot is also equipped with samplers that will allow it to capture traces of environmental DNA (eDNA) from seawater while on a dive. The engineering team held their first successful at-sea test in June of 2019.

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Conducting airlift and dive operations

May 2019 — Captain Peter Collins explains a day of support operations conducted aboard the R/V Tioga at the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO). Helicopter operations included the airlift installation of a new dive board platform and switchgear for the MVCO tower. Dive operations included node junction surveying and a scientific instrument recovery at the Tower.

Learn more about the MVCO here:
https://www.whoi.edu/mvco

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What do ocean airlift operations look like?

Watch how scientific instruments get airlifted and installed at the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory. The installation includes a new dive board platform and electrical switchgear.

Learn more about the MVCO here:
https://www.whoi.edu/mvco

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Researching the Twilight Zone

Meet WHOI technician, Helena McMonagle, and learn how research is conducted in the twilight zone using MOCNESS. This was part of a mission in spring of 2019 where several members of the OTZ Project team conducted an expedition aboard OceanX’s research vessel, the M/V Alucia, out of the Bahamas. The main goal of the expedition was to examine how the OTZ project site off the coast of New England differs from this distant –yet connected– region of the twilight zone. The team worked closely with OceanX to share their journey through video diaries and photographs of the extraordinary creatures brought on board throughout the cruise. The Ocean Twilight Zone is supported by the Audacious Project, a collaborative endeavor, housed at TED, to surface and fund ideas with the potential to create change at thrilling scale.

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Underwater robots swarm the ocean

Robot Swarm

Researchers test a new, acoustic-based navigation system to solve a problem that oceanographers have grappled with for years—getting multiple underwater robots to monitor the ocean cooperatively in swarm-like fashion.

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Mesobot: Following life in the Twilight Zone

Mesobot is a brand new underwater vehicle designed to reveal what lives in the ocean’s twilight zone. Mesobot can follow animals as they move through the darkness and as they migrate from the depths to the surface and back. The twilight zone is vast and remote, but is threatened by unregulated fishing and climate change. We need Mesobot’s insights to understand and protect the twilight zone before humans change it forever.

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MTR100: #5 Dr. Mark Abbott, WHOI

Marine Technology News

The editors of Marine Technology Reporter are pleased to share that Dr. Mark Abbott, President & Director, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), is #5 in the 14th Annual “MTR100”.

360˚ Video Time-lapse: Cruise aboard the Tioga

Ride on the bow of the Research Vessel Tioga as it departs the dock at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at 0530 on May 10, 2019 and heads down to the south side of Martha’s Vineyard to support helicopter and dive operations at the Marthas Vineyard Coastal Observatory.

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360˚ Video: Deploying a CTD Rosette

Deploying a CTD Rosette

The crew of RV Thomas G. Thompson deploys a conductivity, temperature, depth (CTD) sensor with a rosette of Niskin sampling bottles in July 2019 on the Shelfbreak Productivity Interdisciplinary Research Operation at the Pioneer Array (SPIROPA) expedition.

A CTD is the primary tool oceanographer use to determine the essential physical properties of seawater. It gives scientists a precise and comprehensive charting of the distribution and variation of water temperature, salinity, and density that helps to understand how the oceans affect life.

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360 Video: Departing Woods Hole

Departing Woods Hole

RV Thomas G. Thompson departs the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution dock in July 2019 on the Shelfbreak Productivity Interdisciplinary Research Operation at the Pioneer Array (SPIROPA) expedition.

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360 Video: Deploying the VPR from the A-frame

Deploying the VPR from the A-frame

The crew of RV Thomas G. Thompson deploys a video plankton recorder (VPR) in July 2019 on the Shelfbreak Productivity Interdisciplinary Research Operation at the Pioneer Array (SPIROPA) expedition.

The VPR is an underwater video microscope system that that takes images of plankton and particulate matter as small as 50 microns and up to a few centimeters in size. The instrument is used to help scientists quickly measure the distributional patterns of plankton without destroying their delicate forms, as can happen when using nets and bottles.

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360˚ Video: Deploying MOCNESS

Deploying MOCNESS

The crew of RV Thomas G. Thompson deploys a Multiple Opening/Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System (MOCNESS) in July 2019 on the Shelfbreak Productivity Interdisciplinary Research Operation at the Pioneer Array (SPIROPA) expedition.

As MOCNESS tows behind a research ship, each net can be opened and shut independently so that it samples a discrete patch of water. The researcher chooses exactly when by using the environmental sensing system. This is an array of sensors mounted on the instrument frame that relays water conditions up to the ship in real time. The data also help researchers match what they find in their sample to the physical properties of the seawater.

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360˚ Video: Deploying the VPR from Deck

Deploying the VPR from Deck

The crew of RV Thomas G. Thompson deploys a video plankton recorder (VPR) in July 2019 on the Shelfbreak Productivity Interdisciplinary Research Operation at the Pioneer Array (SPIROPA) expedition.

The VPR is an underwater video microscope system that that takes images of plankton and particulate matter as small as 50 microns and up to a few centimeters in size. The instrument is used to help scientists quickly measure the distributional patterns of plankton without destroying their delicate forms, as can happen when using nets and bottles.

Read More