Ocean observation systems are under development to provide critical information for research on climate change, biogeochemical cycles, ecosystem assessment, and environmental hazards. Observation system architectures include those that use seafloor cables to distribute power and communications, systems composed of small profiling floats seeded through the world’s oceans, and even systems that attach sensors to large marine predators that traverse ocean basins.
MBARI's research platforms include moorings, cabled observatories, and a variety of vehicles that carry instruments into the ocean. These platforms are transforming ocean science by providing scientists with a constant presence in large portions of the ocean that have been all but inaccessible until recently.
The EITS is a programmable camera and recording system that can be placed on the sea floor to observe the animal life in the dark depths with as little disturbance as possible. It uses far red light illumination that is invisible to most deep-sea inhabitants and an innovative electronic lure that imitates the bioluminescent burglar alarm display of a common deep-sea jellyfish.
The system is now being deployed on a deep-water mooring in the Monterey Canyon. Because the mooring will provide power, the ORCA Eye-in-the-Sea will be able to collect data continuously for months at a time and stream the video to shore. Finally we will have a window into the deep-sea, one that we hope will allow us to view animals and behaviors never seen before.
The MBARI Environmental Sample Processor—the ESP—provides on-site (in situ) collection and analysis of water samples from the subsurface ocean. The instrument is an electromechanical/fluidic system designed to collect discrete water samples, concentrate microorganisms or particles, and automate application of molecular probes which identify microorganisms and their gene products. The ESP also archives samples so that further analyses may be done after the instrument is recovered.
Pelagic predators, such as sharks, seals, sea turtles, whales, dolphins and sea birds travel vast distances in search of feeding areas and breeding grounds, although many of their migration routes and reasons are unknown. Scientists are currently working with satellite technology in order to follow these animals along their journeys, so that we may better understand their behaviors and life histories.
MBARI began developing unmanned and untethered vehicles, called AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles) as a way to take the high personnel costs out of scientific sampling of the ocean. These platforms are low cost as compared with ships but can nevertheless be directed as to where, when, and what they sample to full ocean depth. Knowing that there would be demand for diverse payloads, MBARI engineers created a modular vehicle that can be quickly reconfigured to host a number of payloads without modifying basic components such as the propulsion, navigation, power, control, and emergency location systems.
MBARI's robotic instruments range from comparatively small autonomous vehicles to complex systems that support long-term field experiments, some of which can be controlled from shore. We also use sophisticated remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to deploy, operate, and maintain seafloor equipment. These efforts enable scientists to study events and processes in the ocean at physical scales ranging from microns to miles, and on temporal scales ranging from milliseconds to decades.
A Glider is a long torpedo-shaped winged autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) which moves up and down in the ocean by changing buoyancy. Wings allow steerable gliding, thus horizontal propulsion. This vehicle maneuvers through the ocean at a forward speed of 30-40 cm/s in a sawtooth-shaped gliding trajectory, observing temperature, conductivity, etc. versus depth, and, at the surface, fix position via an on-board GPS receiver, and communicates via appropriate satellites.
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