This plot shows zooplankton (in green) making an extra trip to the ocean surface (in red) during the eclipse. Normally, they come up to feed only at night. (Jonathan Fram / Ocean Observatories Initiative)

(From Los Angeles Times / Deborah Netburn)

[media-caption type="image" path="/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/la-1503605996-7r2vw3m985-snap-image.jpg" alt="Zooplankton, including this Euphausia pacifica, spend their days in deep water and rise to the surface to feed at night. They made an extra trip on Monday because they were fooled by the eclipse. (NOAA)" link="#"]Zooplankton, including this Euphausia pacifica, spend their days in deep water and rise to the surface to feed at night. They made an extra trip on Monday because they were fooled by the eclipse. (NOAA)[/media-caption]

We humans weren’t the only life-forms to be affected by the Great American Eclipse on Monday.

Tiny marine creatures known as zooplankton got all mixed up as the sunlight grew increasingly dim along the path of totality.

One hour before the sky went dark, the gradual change in light caused the confused little critters to begin swimming up the water column to start their nighttime feeding routine.

As soon as totality was over and the light levels began to return to normal, however, they realized their mistake and made their way back to the safety of deeper, darker waters.

“They didn’t make it all the way up because the eclipse is only so long,” said Jonathan Fram, the Oregon State University oceanographer who observed them. “It takes them a while to get to the surface.”

[media-caption type="image" path="/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/la-1503600552-p3w92ijfjn-snap-image.jpg" alt="This plot shows zooplankton (in green) making an extra trip to the ocean surface (in red) during the eclipse. Normally, they come up to feed only at night. (Jonathan Fram / Ocean Observatories Initiative)" link="#"]This plot shows zooplankton (in green) making an extra trip to the ocean surface (in red) during the eclipse. Normally, they come up to feed only at night. (Jonathan Fram / Ocean Observatories Initiative)[/media-caption]

To measure the movement of the plankton, Fram used bioacuoustic sonar equipment that is stationed off the Oregon coast.

The sonar equipment is part of a larger suite of instruments deployed by the Ocean Observatories Initiative that allows scientists to measure all kinds of oceanic variables, including water temperature, sunlight and air temperature.

Data collected by these instruments show that, overall, ocean animals do not experience the eclipse the same way we do.

On land, creatures in the path of totality felt the temperature drop several degrees as the moon covered the sun. However, the ocean temperature barely budged — even at totality.

On the other hand, the change in light intensity, which humans generally noticed about 15 to 20 minutes before totality, was more obvious to the deep-dwelling zooplankton earlier in the celestial event, Fram said.

“Light level changes quite a bit at depth,” he said. “If you change the surface light just a little bit, it gets noticeably darker to zooplankton.”

He added that his findings are consistent with similar research done during an eclipse in the early 1970s.

“That’s great,” he said. “That’s what we hoped to see.”

Astronomers and physicists capitalized on the total solar eclipse to gather data on the sun, but findings from the ocean were welcome, too.

“That might be my favorite story of the whole eclipse,” said Dan Seaton, a solar physicist at the University of Colorado who was not involved with the research. “It’s sort of adorable, this whole colony of tiny little creatures being like, ‘Oooh, nighttime!’ and then a few minutes later they’re like, ‘Oops.’

“It’s all part of the magic of eclipses,” he added.


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(From Los Angeles Times / Deborah Netburn)

It’s not just humans who will be affected by the Great American Eclipse coming on Aug. 21 — expect animals to act strangely too.

Anecdotal evidence and a few scientific studies suggest that as the moon moves briefly between the sun and the Earth, causing a deep twilight to fall across the land, large swaths of the animal kingdom will alter their behavior.

Eclipse chasers say they have seen songbirds go quiet, large farm animals lie down, crickets start to chirp and chickens begin to roost.


But there is always more to learn, so it should come as no surprise that a few experiments to document animal behavior are in the works for the Great American Eclipse.

Jonathan Fram, an assistant professor at Oregon State University, plans to use a series of bio-acoustic sonars to see whether zooplankton in the path of totality will rise in the water column as the sun is obscured by the moon.

Across the ocean, an enormous number of animals hide in the deep, dark waters during the day, and then swim upward during the cover of night to take advantage of the food generated in the sunlit part of the ocean.

“It’s the biggest migration on the planet, and most of us don’t even know it is happening,” said Kelly Benoit-Bird, a senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute who is not involved with Fram’s study.

Scientists have known for decades that changes in light can affect these animals’ migration patterns. For example, most of these deep-water migrants won’t swim as close to the surface as usual during a full moon. Still, a total eclipse provides an ideal natural experiment that can help researchers learn how important light cues are to different critters, Benoit-Bird said.

Fram, who works on a project known as the Ocean Observatories Initiative, will be able to get data from six bio-acoustic sonars off the Northwest coast — three that are directly in the path of totality and three that are not. This should allow researchers to see how much the sun has to dim to affect changes in the zooplankton’s movements.


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(From Nautilus / Claudia Geib)

I think that for some people,” says Peter Girguis, a deep-sea microbial physiologist at Harvard University, “the ocean seems passé—that the days of Jacques Cousteau are behind us.” He begs to differ. Even though space exploration, he says, “seems like the ultimate adventure, every time we do a deep sea dive and discover something new and exciting, there’s this huge flurry of activity and interest on social media.” But the buzz soon fizzles out, perhaps because of ineffective media campaigns, he says. But “we’re also not doing a good job of explaining how important and frankly exciting ocean exploration is.”

That might change with the launch, this month, of the Ocean Observatories Initiative, an unprecedented network of oceanographic instruments in seven sites around the world. Each site features a suite of technologies at the surface, in the water column, and on the seafloor. Buoys, underwater cameras, autonomous vehicles, and hundreds of sensors per site will collect data on ocean temperature, salinity, chlorophyll levels, volcanic activity, and much more. Using this set of systems, oceanographers hope to address the limitations imposed by working on a ship or a single site for a limited period of time.

[media-caption type="image" path="" alt="Peter Girguis thinks there is still much to be learned in the deep sea.  Photo Credit: Rose Lincoln / Harvard News Office" link="#"]OCEAN EXPLORER: Peter Girguis thinks there is still much to be learned in the deep sea.  Photo Credit: Rose Lincoln / Harvard News Office[/media-caption]

“What that means is, in general, we’re very good at doing one of two things: studying the ocean spatially, such as studying the same process as you cross an ocean, or temporally, studying one point over time,” says Girguis, “But going back to about 20 years ago, scientists began to say, maybe there’s a way to do both of these better.”

Getting the Initiative off the ground (or, rather, in the water) has taken 10 years and $386 million, and the launch is only the beginning: Operational costs will comprise about a sixth of the National Science Foundation’s annual ocean sciences budget, and the ocean’s tendency to rust metals and fry wiring could lead to higher maintenance costs over time. With data now flowing, the questions that have followed the Initiative’s development are once again bobbing to the surface: Will it work? Will it be useful? And will the millions of dollars that taxpayers have provided be worth their investment?

We sat down with Girguis to talk about the worth of the Ocean Observatories Initiative and its place in modern marine science.

Why haven’t there been many large-scale commitments to ocean science, like this initiative, in recent years?

When they landed a spacecraft on the moon, all they had to do to keep the astronauts at one atmosphere was design a spacecraft that could tolerate one atmosphere of pressure. Outside of the ship it’s simply zero atmospheres—that’s a difference of one. When we dive in the submersible Alvin, routinely, to go to our study sights, Alvin has to withstand 250-300 atmospheres. And the ocean is a harsh environment. Alvin has to battle corrosion, electrical shorts; we have to keep from getting stuck on deep sea corals; and around vents, we have to keep from having the plastic windows—which, yes, they are plastic—from melting in water coming out that’s 300 degrees Celsius.

The fact that this seems routine to us scientists is a tribute to the engineers that make it happen. But the fact that the public thinks it is routine means we scientists should be doing a better job of explaining the adventure of it, and also the deep and profound importance that our ocean has in keeping our planet healthy.

Does having the Ocean Observatories Initiative arrays in only seven places limit what they can tell us about the ocean?

This project is by no means comprehensive. I don’t think anybody would say we are comprehensively studying the ocean. That does not mean that it is meaningless. We have, as a community, tried to judiciously pick sites that could tell us something about the other areas of the ocean. Think of them as good representatives of wider-spread environments.

Additionally, those arrays are, to a degree, moveable assets. They are essentially giant moorings, which in some point in the future could be picked up and moved to another locale. But these seven sites are chosen because they’re good representations of important regions of the ocean—not only for natural scientists but also for applied scientists, like those trying to understand fisheries and fish stocks, and how the ocean responds to humans.

How can researchers use the Initiative’s data in their work?

One example: By co-localizing these sensors, researchers can help monitor when phytoplankton—which make, by the way, half the oxygen you breathe—bloom, and grow to huge numbers. When they do that, it’s not always clear what causes it. By having sensors and samplers co-located, you can start to make correlations that help you identify a cause. And I chose that phrase carefully: Correlations are easy to come by, but it’s only when you have a really good data set that you can really move from a correlation to a cause.

How will the array aid in your research?

I work primarily in the deep sea, at the hydrothermal vents in the Northeastern Pacific off the coast of Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver. By deep sea, I mean the part of the ocean that is perpetually dark, which is 80 percent of our planet’s habitable space. What happens in the deep sea is very much influenced by what happens in the surface waters, because that’s where most of the food in the deep sea comes from. Conversely, we now finally have the data to support some long-standing questions and ideas we had about how processes in the deep sea influence what happens on the surface.

Hydrothermal vents, for example, are a major ocean source of iron and trace minerals. They’re kind of like the ocean’s multivitamin. You don’t need a lot of this stuff, in the same way were not guzzling pounds of iron, but you need just enough to stay healthy. And that’s what hydrothermal vents provide. By studying the processes on the surface, and concurrently studying processes in the deep sea, we can start understanding the ocean as a system, and not as a bunch of compartmentalized ecosystems. I’m excited about using the observatories to look at the linkages among all of these processes—biological, chemical, and physical.

Are you concerned that the high price of the project will lead to fewer exploratory projects?

That is a really big question now. I think scientists owe it to the taxpayers to make best use of these assets, and best use of the money, and to provide an explanation for the value of our work. But the Ocean Observatories Initiative has the potential to bring together different federal and non-government agencies to look at the relationships that we have not previously considered. So, a hypothetical example—as the ocean’s multivitamin, hydrothermal vents could stimulate phytoplankton in the Northeast pacific. How does that influence commercial fisheries, like salmon or tuna? That’s a question nobody really knows the answer to. And it could bring interest from agencies outside of the National Science Foundation, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geologic Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency, even commercial fisheries.

Expand it even further—Google is always interested in providing real-time information on traffic. It’s not unreasonable that commercial entities could make use of some of these systems, to provide information for commercial operations. The question should not be limited to what we can do with our current sensors, but rather: What is it that we’re not doing yet that would change the way we think about our oceans? And, how do we develop the tools and methods to change that? So it’s my hope that the observatories expand well beyond the scope of the National Science Foundation, and well beyond their sole dependence for support.

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[media-caption type="image" path="" alt="An Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) inshore surface mooring is deployed in June 2015 off the coast of Newport, Oreg., from Oregon State University's (OSU) R/V Pacific Storm. In the background, a team on OSU's R/V Elakha is deploying an OOI underwater glider. Photo Credit: Andy Cripe, Corvallis Gazette-Times" link="#"]
An Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) inshore surface mooring is deployed in June 2015 off the coast of Newport, Oreg., from Oregon State University’s (OSU) R/V Pacific Storm. In the background, a team on OSU’s R/V Elakha is deploying an OOI underwater glider. Photo Credit: Andy Cripe, Corvallis Gazette-Times

(From EOS, 97) By Robinson W. Fulweiler, Glen Gawakiewicz, and Kristen A. Davis

The coastal ocean provides critical services that yield both ecological and economic benefits. Its dynamic nature, however, makes it a most challenging environment to study. Recently, a better understanding of the coupled physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes that characterize the coastal ocean became more attainable.

Ocean Observatories Initiative systems were fully commissioned as of the end of 2015.

Last January, the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), a program of the National Science Foundation (NSF), held a workshop in Washington, D. C., to acquaint potential users with the capabilities offered by the OOI systems, which were fully commissioned as of the end of 2015. A future workshop is planned for this fall on the West Coast.

OOI maintains two coastal ocean arrays: the Pioneer Array in the northwest Atlantic and the Endurance Array in the northeast Pacific. Each has a series of fixed moorings spanning the continental shelf, as well as mobile assets—underwater gliders and propeller-driven autonomous underwater vehicles.

Together, these observatories are capable of resolving coastal ocean processes across a range of temporal and spatial scales. Such data are critical for understanding nutrient and carbon cycling, controls on the abundance of marine organisms, and the effects of long-term warming and extreme weather events.

At the workshop, Jack Barth (Oregon State University) and Glen Gawarkiewicz (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) presented preliminary results of recent studies and data collection efforts, stressing the rapid, ongoing changes in coastal ocean temperatures in the U.S. West and East Coast shelf and slope systems. Other participants discussed connections between physics and water column nutrients, the temporal variability of key shelf currents, and the role of OOI data in assessing biodiversity.

A key outcome of the workshop was the introduction of the OOI data portal, where participants acquired firsthand experience in data querying, plotting, and downloading of OOI data. Additionally, participants had numerous opportunities to provide feedback to the OOI Cyber Infrastructure Team.

Anyone can sign up for an account to gain access to OOI data. These data are now available for plotting on the OOI data portal, and select data streams are also available. These sites will be updated with additional data and downloading formats as they become available.

OOI has entered a new phase of community engagement where scientists and educators are encouraged to use the data, provide feedback on data access ease and quality, and, in the process, expand our understanding of coastal oceans.

NSF program managers from all relevant disciplines expressed their support for the arrays. Additionally, we learned the details of how to submit proposals related to OOI data, and all the proposal submission information is available on the OOI website. Workshop participants also learned about the OOI education portal, which can bring cutting-edge ocean data and ocean science concepts to classrooms and informal science education sites.
The message from NSF was clear—OOI has entered a new phase of community engagement where scientists and educators are encouraged to use these data, provide feedback on data access ease and quality, and, in the process, expand our understanding of coastal oceans. A new era is approaching in which integrated ocean observatories will help stimulate innovative science and educational partnerships at the same time they enhance our ability to understand the changes occurring in our coastal oceans.

Jack Barth and Chris Edwards contributed to the writing of this summary. We thank NSF for sponsoring this workshop and the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System for organizing the event, with a special thanks to Larry Atkinson and Annette DeSilva for their efforts. We also thank the workshop participants and the OOI Cyber Infrastructure Team for their continued work.

—Robinson W. Fulweiler, Department of Earth and Environment and Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, Mass.; email:; Glen Gawakiewicz, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Mass.; and Kristen A. Davis, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Irvine

Citation: Fulweiler, R. W., G. Gawakiewicz, and K. A. Davis (2016), Ocean Observatories Initiative expands coastal ocean research, Eos, 97, doi:10.1029/2016EO054187. Published on 20 June 2016.

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(From Nature Magazine / By Alexandra Witze) US ocean-observing project launches at last. Network of deep-water observatories streams data in real time.

[media-caption type="image" path="/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/nature-ocean-observatories-initiative-map-NEW-WEB-1.png" alt="from Nature Magazine (doi:10.1038/534159a)" link="#"]from Nature Magazine (doi:10.1038/534159a)[/media-caption]

Nearly 10 years, US$386 million and many grey hairs after it got the go-ahead, an enormous US ocean-observing network is finally up and running.

On 6 June, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that most data are now flowing in real time from the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), a collection of seven instrumented arrays. Oceanographers have the chance to test whether the technologically complex and scientifically unprecedented project will ultimately be worth it.

“It has been stressful,” says Richard Murray, the NSF’s director for ocean sciences. “It’s not for the faint-hearted.”

The raw data streams came online in April — months behind schedule, in part because of a 2014 switch between university subcontractors.

Through an open-records request, Nature obtained more than 1,200 pages of e-mails between project managers at the NSF and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington DC, which built the observatory. The records reveal an extraordinary level of tension throughout 2014 and into early 2015, as the final instruments were installed in the water and the contract for handling the data streams was switched from the University of California, San Diego, to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

“Please excuse my display of stress in this email, but the InBox is overflowing with high-priority, short-fuse items — none of which deserve to be ignored — but all of which cannot be completed within the requested time frames,” Timothy Cowles, then programme director at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, wrote to the NSF in January 2014.

The NSF cited cost overruns and performance delays in changing the cyberinfrastructure contract later that year. In April 2015, an underwater volcano laden with OOI instruments erupted, just as scientists had predicted — but the live data were not yet flowing to the wider scientific community.

Sea change

Now, about 85% of OOI data are available in real time on the project’s website, with the percentage growing every week, says Greg Ulses, the current programme director at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. The information — on factors such as temperature and salinity — streams from more than 900 sensors at the 7 sites.

The OOI consists of one high-tech cable on the tectonically active sea floor of the northeast Pacific Ocean, together with two lines of oceano­graphic instruments — one off the US east coast and the other off the west coast — and four high-latitude sites, near Greenland, Alaska, Argentina and Chile. Each array involves a combination of instruments, from basic salinity sensors to sophisticated underwater gliders.

The NSF built the network as a community resource, hoping to stimulate an era of virtual oceanography in which scientists explore real-time data sets open to all.

“We know the data are valuable,” says Lisa Campbell, a biological oceanographer at Texas A&M University in College Station. “How to implement it is what we’re working on.”

Those involved in the OOI’s painful birth are happy to see it working at last. “When I finally got through and saw the real-time data, I shouted so loud someone had to come down the hall and close the door,” says Glen Gawarkiewicz, a physical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

The array off the coast of Massachusetts has already captured some unprecedented observations, he says. In 2014, it measured air–sea fluxes when a hurricane passed overhead. The following winter, it measured dramatic shifts in the boundary at which shallow waters interact with deep ones. “That has tremendous practical implications, because there’s a lot of commercial fishing in that area,” Gawarkiewicz says. Using OOI data, he is now working with local fishers to share real-time information on changes in temperature and currents.

The west-coast array has studied a warm blob of water linked to weather patterns that are strengthening the ongoing drought in California. And in the North Atlantic, off the coast of Greenland, OOI scientists have coordinated their measurements with those of others, such as an international programme to measure heat flow in this key region. “These are high-scientific-value sites that we have dreamed about, and now we have occupied them,” says Robert Weller, a physical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

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Nature 534, 159–160 (09 June 2016) doi:10.1038/534159a

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(From New York Times / By William J. Broad) Picture a volcano. Now imagine that its main vent extends in a line. Now imagine that this line is so long that it runs for more than 40,000 miles through the dark recesses of all the world’s oceans, girding the globe like the seams of a baseball.

Welcome to one of the planet’s most obscure but important features, known rather prosaically as the midocean ridges. Though long enough to circle the moon more than six times, they receive little notice because they lie hidden in pitch darkness. Oceanographers stumbled on their volcanic nature in 1973. Ever since, costly expeditions have slowly explored the undersea world, which typically lies more than a mile down.

The results can make the visions of Jules Verne seem rather tame.

The ridges feature long rift valleys and, down their middles, giant fields of gushing hot springs that shed tons of minerals into icy seawater, slowly building eerie mounds and towers that can be rich in metals like gold and silver. One knobby tower in the Pacific Ocean, nicknamed Godzilla, grew 15 stories high. Thickets of snakelike tubeworms and other bizarre creatures often blanket the hot features, as do hungry prowlers such as spider crabs.

The riot of life coexists with springs hot enough to melt lead or the plastic windows of mini submarines. With extreme care, humans and robots have measured temperatures as high as 780 degrees.

To date, the studies have been episodic. Ridge expeditions venture out fitfully, their schedules determined by fickle weather and budgets, not to mention the vagaries of crew and gear availability.

Now, scientists have inaugurated a major new effort. Off the West Coast, they have wired up a highly active ridge with hundreds of sensors and cameras, as well as cables that flash the readings to shore. The ocean observatory is to operate for at least a quarter century, replacing sporadic glimpses with continuous scrutiny.

This month, the surge of data is hitting the Internet. Hundreds of scientists around the globe will now be able to monitor one of Earth’s most restless and enigmatic features as effortlessly as reading their email.

Continue reading the full article here….

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