Coastal Pioneer Array Relocation

The OOI Coastal Pioneer Array was commissioned in 2016 as a re-locatable coastal array suitable for moderate to high wind, wave and current regimes on the continental shelf and upper slope. The Coastal Pioneer Array is currently located off the coast of New England, about 75 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, and consists of cross-shelf moored arrays and autonomous vehicles. It is maintained by the Coastal and Global Scale Nodes (CGSN) team at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

In early 2021, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Ocean Observatories Initiative Facilities Board (OOIFB) initiated a process to decide if, and if so where, the Pioneer Array might be relocated to answer pressing science questions and gather data from a new important region. To facilitate community input, NSF and OOIFB held a two-phase series of unique workshops know as Innovations Labs. The Innovation Labs were held between January and June of 2021 to solicit community input and determine where the Array might be located and how it might be configured to answer science questions.

Figure 1.(left panel) Boxes showing the approximate location of the Pioneer Array in the Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight. The red box represents the region where the moored array is expected to be deployed. The green box represents the region where the gliders and AUV are expected to operate. (right panel). A composite image from variance sensors showing the sea-surface temperature (SST) field generated by NOAA NESDIS. The warm, salty waters of the Gulf Stream are shown in red, the cool, fresher waters of the southward-flowing shelf waters are blue, and the intermediate waters of the slope-sea are green and yellow, with the black box showing the anticipated location of the Pioneer Array.

After a thorough review of multiple locations, workshop Innovation Lab participants recommended the Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight between Cape Hatteras and Norfolk Canyon for the new location (see Figure 1). This region offers opportunities to collect data on a wide variety of cross-disciplinary science topics including cross-shelf exchange and Gulf Stream influences, land-sea interactions associated with large estuarine systems, a highly productive ecosystem with major fisheries, processes driving biogeochemical cycling and transport, and fresh-water outflows during extreme rain events. The location also offers opportunities to improve our understanding of hurricane development, tracking, and prediction, and to form partnerships with the nascent offshore wind industry.

On April 30,2021, after the first Innovations Lab, NSF announced that the Pioneer Array would be relocated to the Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight area during 2024. The second Innovations Lab was held in June 2021 to help flesh out science questions, array configurations, and potential partnerships to help inform the necessary planning for a successful relocation.

Since June, members of the CGSN team at WHOI have been actively working on planning the relocation. The team has launched a three-part process to ensure the array is ready for deployment at the new location in 2024 as shown in Figure 2. Phase 1 is the planning phase (July 2021-April 2022), during which the team is consolidating community input from the Innovations Labs and conducting site characterization and initial engineering assessments for the new site. The team is also determining what regulatory requirements exist for the new site in advance of submitting environmental compliance documents and permit applications.

Figure 2. A timeline of the relocation plan, which will be conducted using a three-phase process to ensure successful deployment of the Pioneer Array in the Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB).  Operation of the New England Shelf (NES) Pioneer array will end in the fall of 2022 to recover assets and focus on Implementation of the new array. The new Pioneer Array in the Southern MAB is expected to be operational in Spring 2024.

Phase two is the engineering phase, which will run from May 2022-December 2022. During this phase, the team will complete engineering and design modifications for the moorings, develop instrumentation requirements, and finalize mobile asset plans. They will also refine the site characterization based on ongoing collection of site data and develop a procurement and build schedule. Note that operation of the New England Shelf Pioneer Array will end in the fall of 2022 to provide time and funding for the redeployment effort.

The implementation stage is phase three, which will begin in January 2023 and end when the array is in place in its new location in April 2024. A great deal will be accomplished during this phase, including all regulatory submittals and approvals, procurement of materials and instruments, building of the moorings, and ultimately preparation for and execution of a cruise to put the moorings in place in the new location.

Planning and Implementation Updates

July 1, 2021: New Pioneer Array in the Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight Scoped

A very engaged group of participants spent the week of June 21st thinking about how to optimize the Pioneer Array for its relocation to the southern Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) in 2024. The five-day Phase 2 Innovations Lab, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), was led by the OOIFB (Ocean Observatories Initiative Facilities Board), a talented team of “Sparks”, Knowinnovation, Inc., and expertly supported by the OOI Facility. The group identified a range of representative interdisciplinary science questions that can be addressed using the Pioneer Array within the MAB and proposed optimum locations and potential configurations for the array.

Science question topics included air-sea interactions;  the influence of estuarine plumes and the Gulf Stream on cross-shelf and shelf-slope exchanges and their impacts on ocean chemistry and biology; benthic-pelagic coupling; and canyon processes. Participants converged on a general region (see boxes in Figure 1 at right) that would best address the science questions.

“The Innovations Lab was very successful, and we really appreciate the community sharing their innovative ideas with us in this essential first step,” said Kendra Daly, chair of the OOIFB. “The Innovations Lab provides an excellent start to a long process of fleshing out the details to ensure that the array provides data to investigate a broad range of interdisciplinary science questions, while also being robust enough to weather the challenging environmental conditions in the Mid-Atlantic Bight.”

June 21-25, 2021: OOI Community Members Guide Pioneer Relocation

From 21-25 June, 37 members of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) community participated in the National Science Foundation-sponsored Phase 2 Innovations Lab to identify the best location within the recently designated geographic region of the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) between Cape Hatteras and Norfolk Canyon for the Pioneer Array relocation.

During the week, participants worked to identify the observatory opportunities that can be offered by the new Pioneer Array location. They explored how the Pioneer Array sensors and platforms can be optimized to achieve science and education goals at a new site, based on environmental, logistical, and infrastructural considerations. The group also evaluated challenges presented by deployment of Array infrastructure at a new location, and discussed the potential for partnerships and collaborations at a new site.

The MAB region offers opportunities to collect data on a wide variety of cross-disciplinary science topics including cross-shelf exchange, land-sea interactions associated with large estuarine systems, a highly productive ecosystem with major fisheries, and carbon cycle processes. This geographic region also offers opportunities to improve understanding of hurricane development, tracking and prediction, and offshore wind partnerships. The relocation of the Pioneer Array will take place in 2024.

The Ocean Observatories Initiative Facilities Board (OOIFB), in partnership with KnowInnovations, facilitated the Phase 2 Innovations Lab. “We selected a diverse mix of Lab participants to achieve a broad range of disciplines and professional expertise, career stage (from early to senior), gender, cultural background, and life experience. By involving such a wide range of people in the conversations this week, the innovative quality, outputs, and outcomes of the Lab were enriched,” said Kendra Daly, chair of the OOIFB.  “And, throughout the year, we will continue to work with the community on the exciting optimization process via scientific meetings, seminars, and other means to ensure we receive broad input.”

May 31, 2021: Applications for the Pioneer Array Phase 2 Innovations Lab

Applications to apply for the Pioneer Array Phase 2 Innovations were due on May 31st. The Lab was held each day during the week of June 21-25 (about 5-6 hours each day). During this Lab, participants worked to identify the observatory opportunities that can be offered by the Pioneer Array at its new location at the Mid-Atlantic Bight. Application details are provided below.

The application form for the Pioneer Array Innovations Lab 2 was available here. Other details were provided here.

April 30, 2021: NSF Selects Mid-Atlantic Bight for new Pioneer Array Location

The National Science Foundation (NSF) made it official the next location of the OOI Coastal Pioneer Array is the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) and the move will take place in 2024. The geographic footprint championed during the NSF-sponsored Phase 1 Innovations Lab was the region of the MAB between Cape Hatteras and Norfolk Canyon. This region offers opportunities to collect data on a wide variety of cross-disciplinary science topics including cross-shelf exchange, land-sea interactions associated with large estuarine systems, a highly productive ecosystem with major fisheries, and carbon cycle processes. This location also offers opportunities to improve our understanding of hurricane development, tracking and prediction, and offshore wind partnerships.

As background, the OOI has been in full operations since 2016. The OOI Pioneer Array was designed to be relocatable, and in 2020 the Ocean Observatories Initiative Facilities Board (OOIFB) and the NSF launched a process to select the next OOI Pioneer Array location. A Phase 1 Innovations Lab was held in March 2021 to explore possible locations based on scientific questions of interest. The inputs received helped NSF make its decision to select the MAB.

A Phase 2 Innovations Lab is scheduled for the week of June 21-25.  During this Lab, participants will work to further identify and refine the opportunities afforded by the new Pioneer Array location. Selected participants will be exploring how the Pioneer Array sensors and platforms can be optimized to achieve science and education goals at the new site, based on environmental, logistical, and infrastructural considerations. Partnership and collaboration potentials at the new location will also be discussed.  The OOIFB, in partnership with Knowinnovations, Inc., will again be facilitating the Phase 2 Innovation Lab.

The ocean community was invited to help identify new design considerations that can enable exciting research endeavors at the chosen location.  Scientists, educators, and other stakeholders were encouraged to apply for the Phase 2 Innovations Lab. An open-to-all Microlab was held May 12, 2021 for those interested in participating.

March 15-19 2021: Phase 1 Innovations Lab Considers Pioneer Array Location

In 2021, the Ocean Observatories Initiative Facilities Board (OOIFB) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) launched a process to consider whether to move the Pioneer Array from its current location, on the New England shelf and slope south of Martha’s Vineyard, to a new site. Selection of the next OOI Pioneer Array location, or decision to maintain the Array at its current location, was to be driven by community input on the important science questions that can be addressed by the Pioneer Array.

The OOI community was invited to weigh in on this important decision during a two-phase sequential lab approach that brought together scientists, educators, and other stakeholders together virtually to evaluate 1) future location options for the Pioneer Array and 2) new design considerations that can enable exciting research endeavors at the chosen location.

The Phase 1 Innovations Lab was held on March 15-19to explore possible locations for the Pioneer Array based on multiple factors, driven by scientific questions that require an ocean observatory to advance knowledge. At the Lab, interdisciplinary teams worked together to ideate and develop a roadmap of possible locations including exploring new scientific, educational, and partnership opportunities.  Participation was open to the all, and 32 applicants were selected to participate in this important decision.

The Lab’s findings were considered by an NSF review panel, which will report to NSF in early fall on the new Pioneer Array location and how it can be optimized for science and education.  The findings of both Innovations Lab will be shared with the OOI community.

January 13, 2021: Questions about Potential Pioneer Array Move Answered

On Wednesday 13 January, 2021, the National Science Foundation and the Ocean Observatories Initiative Facilities Board held a microlab to answers questions about the process for deciding if, and if so, where, the Pioneer Array might be relocated.  The microlab was designed to provide potential applicants with information about the selection process as well as technical details about the Pioneer Array to be considered for potential new locations.

All feasible location options are to be considered – new geographic areas, as well as maintaining the Pioneer Array in its current location – during a two-phased Innovation Labs, which all were invited to apply to participate in. Selection of a new OOI Pioneer Array location is to be driven by community input on the important science questions that can be addressed with observations from a new Array location.

The answers to the questions posed during the microlab can be found here.