Technology transfer

The Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory (LOBO), pictured here in Elkhorn Slough, is a networked mooring system for continuous monitoring of complex cycles being commercialized by Satlantic.

The Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory (LOBO), pictured here in Elkhorn Slough, is a networked mooring system for continuous monitoring of complex cycles being commercialized by Satlantic.

One of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s overarching goals is to transfer the knowledge gained, solutions devised, and technology developed to communities outside of MBARI. Our internal intellectual property committee offers guidance on technology transfer strategies. Basilio Martinez is the primary MBARI contact for technology transfer. He monitors incoming revenue, tracks payments to attorneys and the U.S. Patent and Copyright Office, and distributes royalties to MBARI and the inventors. The committee provides advice and patent information and negotiates licenses and commercialization support, working with advisors Evan Elder and Andrea Pesce at Stanford University’s Office of Technology Licensing.

MBARI uses a variety of strategies to transfer its developments to the greater community for public benefit. For example, some complex systems, such as the In Situ Ultraviolet Spectrophotometer, are licensed to commercial partners for manufacture and distribution to oceanographic researchers and resource managers. Some hardware and software systems, such as the Video Annotation and Reference System, are distributed for research use as open source software.

Some complex oceanographic systems developed at MBARI have been licensed and are commercially available:

isus_wide-350Satlantic’s In Situ Ultraviolet Spectrophotometer (ISUS) V3 nitrate sensor (developed in Ken Johnson’s laboratory at MBARI) uses advanced ultraviolet absorption technology to accurately measure nitrate concentrations in aquatic environments in real time. Satlantic’s Deep SUNA, which is based on the ISUS sensor, was designed for integration into  autonomous underwater vehicles.

2nd Generation ESP

2nd Generation ESP

McLane Research Laboratories manufactures and markets the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) for in situ collection and analysis of seawater samples. This electromechanical, fluidics system (developed at MBARI under Chris Scholin’s leadership) can collect discrete water samples, concentrate microorganisms, plankton, or particles, and automate application of molecular probes in order to identify organisms and their gene products. The resulting data are available for remote retrieval and analysis in near-real time.

Satlantic has commercialized the SeaFET ocean pH sensor developed in Ken Johnson’s lab at MBARI in collaboration with Todd Martz’s lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The instrument is an ion selective field effect transistor sensor for accurate long-term pH measurements in shallow ocean habitats.

DeepSeaDurafetSea-Bird Scientific integrated the MBARI/Scripps Institute of Oceanography/Honeywell Deep-Sea DuraFET technology with conductivity, temperature and pressure instrumentation from Sea-Bird Scientific to optimize real-time measurement of pH in deep ocean habitats.

L01cropLand/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory (LOBO) is a networked mooring system for continuous monitoring of complex cycles being commercialized by Satlantic. More info at:

New technology is currently available for licensing.

  • MBARI’s high resolution pH electrode circuit board design for commercially available pH probes

MBARI has provided non-exclusive license agreements for a variety of oceanographic equipment design documentation for use in the exploration of the oceans to advance scientific knowledge:

miniROV22MBARI’s Mini ROV is a portable, 1500-meter inspection class remotely operated vehicle that a small crew (one to two people) can operate off ships of opportunity around the world. The vehicle is capable of limited sampling, video transects, instrument deployments, and is outfitted with core instruments: camera, scanning sonar, lasers, LED lights, CTD, and bolt-on tool skids for mission-specific sampling. Read more at: MiniROVSystemSpecificationsADS.pdf.

The cable-laying toolsled for remotely operated vehicles was developed to deploy fiber optic cable to interconnect deep-sea instrument clusters. The toolsled incorporates the capability to deploy five kilometers of fiber-optic cable at depths to 2,000 meters, monitor and control cable payout speed, and manipulate instrument packages at the platforms. The MBARI team also developed a plow attachment to the cable-laying toolsled to control the vehicle path along the seafloor and plow a shallow trough to bury the cable.

Software infrastructure and application for MBARI ocean observing systems (SIAM) is maintained under GNU GPL v3 via google code.

Some software and hardware systems designed and developed at MBARI are available through open source license agreements:

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The oceanographic decision support system (ODSS) provides a platform for situational awareness, planning, observation, archiving and data analysis. MBARI’s interdisciplinary team of computer scientists, engineers, biologists and oceanographers has used the system extensively for oceanographic experiments. The novelty of the system lies in the targeted domain, its evolving functionalities that closely tracks how ocean scientists are seeing the evolution of the field experiments, and its actual use by engineers, scientists and marine operations staff.

The spatial temporal oceanographic query system (STOQS) is a geospatial database software package designed for providing efficient access to in situ oceanographic measurement data. This efficient data access capability enables development of advanced visualization and analysis tools.

The Video Annotation and Reference System (VARS) is a software interface and database system that provides tools for describing, cataloging, retrieving, and viewing the visual, descriptive, and quantitative data associated with MBARI’s deep-sea video archives. More info at:

MB-System (the MB stands for multibeam) is an open source software package for the processing and display of bathymetry and backscatter imagery data derived from multibeam, interferometry, and sidescan sonars. This software developed and supported by MBARI’s Dave Caress and Dale Chayes of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is distributed freely (and for free) in the form of source code for Unix platforms.

TD_xxx is a toolkit of matlab objects and functions to perform simulation of floating body motions in the time domain. The intent is that the code is extensible, giving the user a high level of control over new forces that impact the motions of one or more floating bodies, tethered or untethered to one another. All of the linearized wave-hydrodynamics is complete allowing the user to concentrate on adding problem specific behaviors to the system without having to program the relatively complicated wave-body interactions. TD_xxx matlab software is available under a BSD open source license (typical for matlab).

The three modules of the SeeStar System allow it to be mounted on many different platforms. Image: (c) 2013 MBARI

The three modules of the SeeStar System allow it to be mounted on many different platforms. Image: (c) 2013 MBARI

SeeStar was designed as a less expensive, easily deployed ocean imaging system. It has three parts—a camera, a battery pack, and LED lights—each contained in its own pressure housing. The pressure housings are made of relatively inexpensive PVC pipe with plastic end caps. More info at:

A Plug and Work Discussion Group with MBARI participants helped to build community consensus on plug-and-work instruments for ocean observatories. The “PUCK” protocol is distributed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), an international consortium of over 520 companies, government agencies, and research institutions promoting publicly available interface standards. MBARI distributes the PUCK reference design kit (PRDK) on the MBARI web site with an open source license.


Solving challenges
Taking the laboratory into the ocean
In Situ Ultraviolet Spectrophotometer
Midwater Respirometer System
Mobile flow cytometer
Enabling targeted sampling
Automated Video Event Detection
Gulper autonomous underwater vehicle
Advancing a persistent presence
Aerostat hotspot
Benthic Event Detectors
Benthic rover
Long-range autonomous underwater vehicle Tethys
Marine “soundscape” for passive acoustic monitoring
Monterey Ocean-Bottom Broadband Seismometer
Shark Café camera
Wave Glider-based communications hotspot
Emerging and current tools
Aerostat hotspot
Wave Glider-based communications hotspot
Wet WiFi
Data management
Oceanographic Decision Support System
Spatial Temporal Oceanographic Query System (STOQS) Data
Video Annotation and Reference System
Apex profiling floats
Benthic Event Detectors
Deep particle image velocimetry
Environmental Sample Processor (ESP)
How the ESP Works
Genomic sensors
ESP Web Portal
The ESP in the news
Investigations of imaging for midwater autonomous platforms
Lagrangian sediment traps
Laser Raman Spectroscopy
Midwater Respirometer System
Mobile flow cytometer
Smart underwater connector
OGC PUCK Reference Design Kit
Promoters and manufacturers
Manufacturer ID
Wave-Power Buoy
Vehicle technology
Benthic Rover
Gulper autonomous underwater vehicle
Imaging autonomous underwater vehicle
In Situ Ultraviolet Spectrophotometer
Seafloor mapping AUV
Long-range autonomous underwater vehicle Tethys
Mini remotely operated vehicle
ROV Doc Ricketts
ROV Ventana
Automated Video Event Detection
Machine learning
SeeStar Imaging System
Shark Café camera
Video Annotation and Reference System
Engineering Research
Bioinspiration Lab
Bringing the laboratory to the ocean
Bringing the ocean to the laboratory
Bio-inspired ocean exploration technologies
Seafloor mapping
Ocean imaging
MB-System seafloor mapping software
Seafloor mapping AUV
Technology transfer