Watch an OOI Milestones Video Here

Having achieved a number of significant milestones in 2011, the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) program is diving into 2012 with installation and test activities continuing at a rapid pace across the program, bringing the construction of the infrastructure another year closer to completion.

During 2011 the OOI team conducted at-sea tests for the coastal and global arrays; installed the extensive undersea fiber optic cable off the coasts of Oregon and Washington; procured essential instrument platforms (gliders, AUVs), sensors, and equipment; and made substantial progress developing the OOI’s cyberinfrastructure and software interfaces so anyone will be able to access ocean data from their computer or mobile device.

For more on the events of 2011 watch our new OOI 2011 Milestones Video:

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Video Credit: Dr. Leslie M. Smith, OOI Program Management Office Communications

 “This will be an exciting year for the OOI program with a number of high profile activities taking place across the program,” said Tim Cowles, Vice President & Director of Ocean Observing at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. “We’re building and installing hardware, and deploying mobile systems, all aimed at meeting our top priority to provide the scientific community with quality, open access data. This year we’ll see some very visible results of the progress made on the program.”

The OOI, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded program, will deliver high quality data on ocean processes and properties to address critical science-driven questions and that will contribute to better understanding and management of the oceans. The OOI architecture will be expanded and adapted easily as new technical advances become available into the future. The OOI currently is in the third year of a five and a half year construction phase.

One of the most significant events this year is the initiation of glider operations for the Coastal Global Scale Node (CGSN) part of the program.  “The CGSN looks forward to gathering momentum to move into the field and realize the vision of the Coastal and Global Scale Nodes,” said Robert Weller, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Principal Investigator for the OOI CGSN.  “CGSN will be moving forward in the next year, finishing design and moving to construction, implementation, and operation. Operations and delivery of data to users will begin in 2012 with the initial deployment and start of sustained operations of coastal gliders at the Endurance and Pioneer Arrays.  In the water, testing of moorings will help finalize designs, and construction of moorings will move forward.”

The coastal component is comprised of two arrays: Endurance Array off the coast of Washington and Oregon and Pioneer Array off the New England Coast.  OOI data from sensors on moored buoys, AUVs, and gliders, will be supplemented by data from surface radars, airborne and satellite sensors obtained from other programs to provide a unique and extensive observational context for the coastal component of the CGSN. The global component includes a network or buoys to support sensors for measurement of air-sea fluxes of heat moisture and momentum; physical, biological and chemical properties throughout the water column and geophysical observations made on the sea floor.  The CGSN is being constructed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Oregon State University and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Another milestone event of 2012 will be the addition of the next level of infrastructure to the Regional Scale Nodes (RSN) component of the OOI.  That installation work includes the technically complex primary nodes installation on the RSN. The University of Washington is responsible for the RSN component of the OOI.

“Within the Regional Cabled component of the OOI, we are highly energized by the progress achieved in 2011 involving a full set of shore facilities and data backhaul connectivity as well as the major step of laying 900 km of electro-optical cable on the seafloor in large segments this past summer,” said John Delaney, University of Washington Director and Principal Investigator of the RSN. “An equally powerful leap forward will come when we integrate each of those elements into a coherent network during the summer of 2012 when the segments are all joined to the seven primary nodes that are submarine electrical and communications switching stations. At that point more than 15 years of planning will have come to closure in the form of the key high level infrastructural elements in place to facilitate scientific activities the following year. For the NSF, the OOI, and for the U.S. Ocean Science Community, this is a historic milestone.”

Instruments, moorings and sensors on the RSN high-power, high bandwidth fiber optic cable will create a large aperture natural laboratory for conducting a wide range of experiments. The RSN team in September 2011 completed the installation of 560 miles of the undersea fiber optic cable that will link scientists and others on land to data streaming from the extensive array of OOI next generation sensors located in the ocean and on the sea floor. Initial study sites for the RSN will be at Axial Volcano and Hydrate Ridge off the Oregon and Washington Coasts.

The OOI team in July 2011 connected the first of the undersea cable to shore in Pacific City, Ore. That cable links into a shore station there and extends to a study site at Hydrate Ridge, approximately 75 miles off the coast. It then loops back on the continental shelf to link the cable moorings of the OOI’s Coastal Scale Nodes Oregon Line and the Endurance Array site. A second cable, pulled to shore at Pacific City on July 15, 2011, extends 310 miles west to the Axial Seamount study site on the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Each primary instrumented site will offer two-way communication between land and sea and will be supplied with up to 10 gigabits per second of telecommunications bandwidth and 8 kilowatts of power.  

Meanwhile, the OOI”s unique cyberinfrastructure (CI) continues to emerge with progressive software releases and continuing development work taking place.  The University of California, San Diego, is building the OOI’s CI. The CI Team at the end of 2011 completed the first release of software that provides the fundamental computing and data distribution infrastructure.

“We are building the integrated ocean network for the OOI and the software architecture is destined to become the most durable component of the program: the ‘Internet of things,’” said John Orcutt, of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Principal Investigator for the CI. “Today the Internet largely provides means for communications, computation, storage and social interactions. Tomorrow the Internet will grow into an entirely new creature, which links ‘things’ like refrigerators, factories, sensors and vehicles into an integrated whole.  The OOI CI presages the latter view of the Internet to provide one of the first examples of this new approach. It’s a very exciting time.”

The OOI’s Integrated Observatory Network (ION), which will connect and coordinate the operations of the OOI marine components with the scientific and educational pursuits of oceanographic research communities, is now running and available. “Our initial software release (R1) has initiated the ION data distribution system,” Orcutt said. “This activity takes data from external data sources and transforms them into formats for continuous data streams for modelers’ use.”

The CI team also has begun the second software release to build the OOI’s managed instrument network, Orcutt noted. By October 2012 the CI team plans to be in a position to activate control of both platforms, such as buoys, gliders or cables and sensors to produce data products for users.

“We will have developed computational packages needed to transform data into broadly useful data products,” he added. “The data will be available within the OI as well as early adopters outside. This should be just in time for the first glider launches this year.”

In addition, the OOI Education and Public Engagement (EPE) team is building a variety of software interfaces and web-based tools that ultimately to allow educators to bring the ocean into their learning environments. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is leading the development of educational capabilities for the OOI.

The EPE team is constructing a series of software and web-based social networking tools to engage a wide range of users including faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, informal science educators and the general public. The software will be designed to provide science educators with a suite of tools allowing them to enhance their graduate and undergraduate education activities and engage the general public using ocean observation data from the OOI.

“We are excited about our progress on development of a suite of infrastructure modules,” said Scott Glenn, Rutgers Principal Investigator for the EPE. “We also look forward to continued dialogue in the new year with the community who will ultimately be the future users of these resources, tools and services.”

The EPE team will continue work this year to inform the design process by assessing how undergraduate professors currently use oceanographic data in their classrooms.  A total of 14 professors from community colleges and universities, teaching both science and non-science majors were interviewed for a recent study conducted by the EPE team. The goals of the study were to gain insight and understanding of current undergraduate teaching practices; collect example summaries of how data is currently used in the undergraduate classroom; and synthesize recommendations from participants on how OOI software developers can design tools to improve undergraduate students’ ability to interpret and analyze oceanographic data.   This report, which is publicly available, provides a summary of recommended priorities for proposed EPE products based on use practices of our participants.

Those interested in the OOI can track progress and events by visiting the OOI Website. Detailed information on the OOI equipment and sensors and their data products also can be found on the OOI Instrument Table Section of the website. Click here to see an OOI Station Map of the OOI locations.

The OOI presents a range of opportunities for those in the user community and plans to host workshops on mobile platform strategies, data quality and sampling scenarios. To learn more about how to become click here to Ask A Question or Submit at Comment to the OOI. The OOI Program Management Office welcomes all comments, questions and feedback on the program.

The OOI Program is managed and coordinated by the OOI Project Office at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, in Washington, D.C., and is responsible for construction and initial operations of the OOI network.