Interdisciplinary field experiments

Controlled, Agile, and Novel Ocean Network (CANON)

biological pump

Illustration by Amadeo Bachar ©2012 MBARI

How can researchers understand ocean biogeochemistry when the subject of study varies constantly over time and space? MBARI’s Controlled, Agile, and Novel Observing Network (CANON) Initiative, led by Francisco Chavez, is an interdisciplinary effort that utilizes smart, autonomous devices designed to cooperate with each other to collect oceanographic information. Having time-varying spatial information relative to upwelling plumes, associated fronts, and chemical features can greatly improve our understanding of Monterey Bay and the California Current Ecosystem.

During previous field experiments in Monterey Bay, long-range autonomous underwater vehicles were used to follow a subsurface patch of seawater rich in ammonium. The patch and overlying waters were sampled from a ship, by MBARI staff and their collaborators, several times per day, over many days, for biogeochemistry and microbiology. Sediment traps measured the vertical flux of organic material that fuels nitrification at the base of the euphotic zone. The team also measured turbulence to estimate the mixing of nitrate into surface waters and used sophisticated isotopic and gas measurements to estimate net community production, and the air-sea exchange of carbon dioxide.

Using robots to find the feature or process of interest rapidly is also key to directing the activities of devices so they can sample effectively. Autonomous vehicles that can collect samples for laboratory analyses and provide information about zooplankton, fish, and marine mammals will help scientists to develop a realistic picture of the relationships between oceanographic processes and life in the sea. Our hope is that with these new tools, researchers will be able to better predict what lies in the future for ocean ecosystems.

Biological Oceanography Group

One of the longest-standing projects of the Biological Oceanography Group is the Monterey Bay Time Series. Research ships and moorings have collected detailed datasets of temperature, salinity, oxygen, CO2, phytoplankton and other changing variables since 1989.


Kevin Gomes

Information Engineering Group Lead

John Ryan

Senior Research Specialist

Ken Smith

Senior Scientist/ Marine Ecologist


Upper-ocean systems
Acoustical ocean ecology
Acoustic instruments
Acoustic fingerprinting
Acoustic community ecology
Acoustics in the news
Biological oceanography
Global modes of sea surface temperature
Krill hotspots in the California Current
Nitrate supply estimates in upwelling systems
Chemical sensors
Chemical data
Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory in Elkhorn Slough
Listing of floats
SOCCOM float visualization
Periodic table of elements in the ocean
Biogeochemical-Argo Report
Profiling float
Interdisciplinary field experiments
Ecogenomic Sensing
Genomic sensors
Field experiments
Harmful algal blooms (HABs)
Water quality
Environmental Sample Processor (ESP)
ESP Web Portal
In the news
Ocean observing system
Midwater research
Midwater ecology
Deep-sea squids and octopuses
Food web dynamics
Midwater time series
Respiration studies
Zooplankton biodiversity
Seafloor processes
Revealing the secrets of Sur Ridge
Exploring Sur Ridge’s coral gardens
Life at Sur Ridge
Mapping Sur Ridge
Biology and ecology
Effects of humans
Ocean acidification, warming, deoxygenation
Lost shipping container study
Effects of upwelling
Faunal patterns
Previous research
Technology development
High-CO2 / low-pH ocean
Benthic respirometer system
Climate change in extreme environments
Station M: A long-term observatory on the abyssal seafloor
Station M long-term time series
Monitoring instrumentation suite
Sargasso Sea research
Antarctic research
Geological changes
Arctic Shelf Edge
Continental Margins and Canyon Dynamics
Coordinated Canyon Experiment
CCE instruments
CCE repeat mapping data
Monterey Canyon: A Grand Canyon beneath the waves
Submarine volcanoes
Mid-ocean ridges
Magmatic processes
Volcanic processes
Explosive eruptions
Hydrothermal systems
Back arc spreading ridges
Near-ridge seamounts
Continental margin seamounts
Non-hot-spot linear chains
Eclectic seamounts topics
Margin processes
Hydrates and seeps
California borderland
Hot spot research
Hot-spot plumes
Magmatic processes
Volcanic processes
Explosive eruptions
Volcanic hazards
Hydrothermal systems
Flexural arch
Coral reefs
ReefGrow software
Eclectic topics
Submarine volcanism cruises
Volcanoes resources
Areas of study
Bioluminescence: Living light in the deep sea
Microscopic biology research
Open ocean biology research
Seafloor biology research
Automated chemical sensors
Methane in the seafloor
Volcanoes and seamounts
Hydrothermal vents
Methane in the seafloor
Submarine canyons
Earthquakes and landslides
Ocean acidification
Physical oceanography and climate change
Ocean circulation and algal blooms
Ocean cycles and climate change
Past research
Molecular ecology
Molecular systematics
SIMZ Project
Bone-eating worms
Gene flow and dispersal
Molecular-ecology expeditions
Ocean chemistry of greenhouse gases
Emerging science of a high CO2/low pH ocean