The Pioneer Array was designed as a moveable array. The OOI community has been invited to participate in the decision regarding the Pioneer Array’s future location.  Selection of a new OOI Pioneer Array location will be driven by community input on the important science questions that can be addressed with observations from a new Array location or maintaining it in its current location. The first of a two-phase Innovations Lab will bring together scientists, educators, and stakeholders to explore possible locations for the Pioneer Array. During the week of March 15-19, interdisciplinary teams will work together to ideate and develop a roadmap of possible locations including exploring new scientific, educational, and partnership opportunities.

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NSF and OOIFB are hosting a two-phase innovations lab to consider possible new locations for the Pioneer Array.

The first Innovations Lab will bring together scientists, educators, and stakeholders to explore possible locations for the Pioneer Array. During the week of March 15-19, interdisciplinary teams will work together to ideate and develop a roadmap of possible locations including exploring new scientific, educational, and partnership opportunities. Through the course of the week, teams will form, pitch, and refine plans (based on input from experts and other participants). Participants will meet virtually each day of the week (M-F).  Four days will be for synchronous meetings and one day will be dedicated to asynchronous team work time.

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[media-caption path="" link="#"]Figure 23.  Weekly average air-sea CO2 flux estimated for the Pioneer Array Inshore, Central and Offshore moorings during 2016 and 2017. A negative flux is from the atmosphere to the ocean. From Thorson and Eveleth (2020).[/media-caption]

In the summer of 2020 the Rutgers University Ocean Data Labs project worked with the Rutgers Research Internships in Ocean Science to support ten undergraduate students in a virtual Research Experiences for Undergraduates  program. Two weeks of research methods training and Python coding instruction was followed by six weeks of independent study with a research mentor.

Dr. Rachel Eveleth (Oberlin College) was one of those mentors. Already using some of the Data Labs materials in her undergraduate oceanography course, she saw an opportunity to leverage the extensive OOI data holdings to engage students in cutting edge research on a limited budget during a time when her own field work was curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Eveleth advised Alison Thorson from Sarah Lawrence College (NY) and Brianna Velasco form Humboldt State University (CA) on the study of air-sea fluxes of CO2 on the US east and west coast, respectively.

Preliminary results were presented at the 2020 Fall AGU meeting. A poster authored by Thorson and Eveleth (ED037-0035) evaluated pCO2 data from the three Pioneer Array Surface Moorings during 2016 and 2017. They showed that the annual mean CO2 flux across all three sites for the two years was negative, meaning that the continental shelf acts as a sink of atmospheric carbon. The annual average flux was -0.85 to -1.6 mol C/(m2 yr), but the flux varied significantly between mooring sites and between years (Figure 23). Investigation of short-term variability in pCO2 concentration concurrent with satellite imagery of SST and Chlorophyll was consistent with temperature-driven, but biologically damped, changes.

[media-caption path="" link="#"]Figure 24.  Hourly (dots) and monthly (lines) average air and water CO2 concentration observed at the Endurance Array Washington Offshore mooring during 2016 and 2017. From Velasco et al. (2020).[/media-caption]

A poster by Velasco, Eveleth and Thorson (ED004-0045) analyzed pCO2 data from the Endurance Array offshore mooring. Three years of nearly continuous data were available during 2016-2018. The seasonal cycle showed that the pCO2 concentration in water was relatively stable and near equilibrium with the air in winter, decreasing in late spring and summer (Figure 24). Short-term minima in summer were as low as 150 uatm. Like the east coast, the mean air-sea CO2 flux was consistently negative, meaning the coastal ocean acts as a carbon sink. The annual means at the Washington Offshore mooring for 2016, 2017 were -1.9 and -2.1 mol C/(m2 yr), respectively. The seasonal cycle appears to be strongly driven by non-thermal factors (on short time scales), presumably upwelling events and algal blooms.

These studies, although preliminary, are among the first to use multi-year records of in-situ CO2 flux from the OOI coastal arrays, and to our knowledge the first to compare such records between the east and west coast. Dr. Eveleth’s team intends to use the rich, complementary data set available from the OOI coastal arrays to investigate the mechanisms controlling variability and role of biological vs physical drivers.






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[media-caption path="" link="#"]Michael Marchetti readies a portable CTD for deployment off the stern of the F/V Captain Robert. Credit: Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation.[/media-caption]

Since 2014, fishers in southern Rhode Island and scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have been working collaboratively to share data and learn from one another. For the past seven years, fishers have been collecting oceanographic data through the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation’s (CFRF) Shelf Research Fleet and WHOI has shared data collected by the Pioneer Array.

Through this partnership, fishers have come to value data from the Shelf Research Fleet and the Pioneer Array, as well as the insights of researchers who have spent years studying some of the most productive fisheries in U.S. waters. WHOI provides Pioneer data to fishers, and fishers provide oceanographic data collected during their normal fishing operations using CTDs which measure conductivity, temperature and depth information through the CFRF/WHOI Shelf Research Fleet. When the CTDs are brought onboard they wirelessly communicate the temperature data to an iPad where fishermen can view oceanographic conditions and ultimately upload the data to scientists. These CTD measurements provide the physical properties of sea water, which help determine the location and composition of the catch.

[caption id="attachment_20251" align="alignright" width="300"] Fisher Michael Marchetti (left) and WHOI scientist Glen Gawarkiewicz discuss data collected by a portable CTD. Credit: Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation.[/caption]

“This arrangement is a good example of how if people are willing to listen and really learn to value issues that are going on for another group, remarkable things can occur,” said Glen Gawarkiewicz, a WHOI researcher who leads the CFRF -WHOI Shelf Research Fleet.

In December, Gawarkiewicz visited the sea surface temperature website maintained by Rutgers University. There he noticed a sea surface temperature image that seemed to suggest a patch of warm, salty water known as a warm core ring forming directly adjacent to the continental shelf in the vicinity of the Pioneer Array. Warm core rings form when the Gulf Stream becomes unstable. These meanders  can break off forming a swirling mass of water dozens of miles across, with warm water at the center that can be transported away from the Gulf Stream and into normally cold coastal waters of New England. Once there, such eddies can disrupt ecosystems and affect weather patterns for weeks.

[caption id="attachment_20250" align="alignleft" width="300"] Newport Rhode Island lobsterman James Violet (foreground) reviews oceanographic data collected via CTDs on WHOI provided iPads. Credit: Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation.[/caption]

Gawarkiewicz then went to the Ocean Observatories Initiative data portal and made plots that confirmed the existence of high-salinity surface water near one of Pioneer’s offshore moorings and  near the seafloor of one of the array’s inshore moorings. The conditions, he said, were very much like an event in January 2017 in which fish normally associated with warm Gulf Stream waters were caught near Block Island. The event in January 2017 was initially identified in Shelf Research Fleet data and then confirmed in Pioneer Array glider data analyzed by Robert Todd of WHOI.

Acting on the solid relationship built between WHOI and the CFRF, Gawarkiewicz emailed CFRF staff to warn them that conditions were changing and that they should be on alert for changes in the fishery. Shortly after, he received a phone call from Shelf Fleet collaborator, Aubrey Ellertson, who had reported that fishers were noticing an increase in water temperature on the bottom of the seafloor, and an impact on their catch. For some fishers, the Jonah crab fishing declined, and for others they were not seeing traditional fish species caught in their gillnets.

This exchange highlights the strong partnership between WHOI and the Rhode Island fishing fleet. The collaboration has helped participating fleet members recognize oceanographic processes and relate their fishing catch to processes discussed with WHOI scientists like Gawarkiewicz, and his colleagues Magdalena Andres, Ke Chen, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology/WHOI Joint Program graduate Jacob Forsyth. At the same time, Gawarkiewicz and his team have learned from the fishing community about the impacts of warm core rings on species distribution, their catch and, more broadly, on the shelf ecosystem.

“I knew to pass along this alert because members of the Shelf Research Fleet have taught me about what fishing outcomes are likely from some changing ocean conditions,” said Gawarkiewicz. “It is truly remarkable how much we have been able to learn from each other.”

Gawarkiewicz believes that this event demonstrates both the practical and intellectual value of the Pioneer Array data in improving understanding of sub-surface exchange processes. “Without Pioneer, we would not know the bottom salinity nor been able to give the fishers a heads-up as to what to expect. This shows how Pioneer is having a direct impact on how, when, and where people are fishing.”

To hear an audio piece with interviews with Gawarkiewicz, Aubrey Ellertson and others, listen here.



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In 2021, the Ocean Observatories Initiative Facilities Board (OOIFB) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are launching 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, will be driven by community input on the important science questions that can be addressed by the Pioneer Array.

The OOI community is invited to weigh in on this important decision during a two-phase sequential lab approach that will bring 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.

Two Innovations Labs will be held in 2021. The Phase 1 Innovations Lab, March 15-19, will 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 will work together to ideate and develop a roadmap of possible locations including exploring new scientific, educational, and partnership opportunities.

The Phase 2 Innovations Lab, in late spring/early summer, will come up with a plan to maximize the science gains and broader impacts of the potential new site. If a new site is recommended, the Array would be moved in 2023. The OOI Coastal and Global Scale Nodes (CGSN) Team at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution would continue the operation and maintenance of the array, regardless of its location.

The Lab’s findings will be 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.

How to Become Involved

For those interested in learning more, a 60-90-minute informational session, Phase 1 Micro Lab, is planned for 13 January 2021, beginning at 1 pm Eastern. Representatives from NSF along with CGSN, the current operator of the Pioneer Array, will present information about the selection process and technical details about the Pioneer Array.

Individuals interested in applying for the Phase I Innovations Lab are encouraged to attend the Micro Lab. The information provided could be useful in submitting an application. To attend the Phase 1 Micro Lab, please RSVP here.

The application to participate in the Phase 1 Innovations Lab is available here. The application deadline is 31 January 2021.

Selected Innovative Lab participants will be announced in mid-February. Participants selected for Phase I will also be considered for Phase II.

What to Expect

The Innovations Labs will bring together scientists, stakeholders, and educators. Interdisciplinary teams will work together for six-hour days for the full week. Teams will form, pitch, and refine plans (based on input from experts and other participants). Participants will meet virtually each day of the week (M-F). Four days will be for synchronous meetings and one day will be dedicated to asynchronous team work

To learn more or to apply, click here.


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The National Science Foundation (NSF) will present plans to use an “Ideas Lab”, a participatory, immersive process designed to innovative the decision-making process for the potential move of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) Pioneer Array at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. The presentation will be at the OOI virtual booth, on 8 December 11:15-noon Eastern. Lisa Clough, Section Head from NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences, will describe the “Ideas Lab” process that will be used to determine if the Pioneer Array should be moved, and if so, to what location.  She will be joined by Al Plueddemann, Project Scientist for OOI’s Coastal and Global Scale Nodes, who will speak to the operational considerations involved in a potential move of the Pioneer Array.

The Coastal Pioneer Array is currently located in the Middle Atlantic Bight, centered about 75 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, where the continental shelf-slope is highly productive.  The area was chosen as the initial placement of the Pioneer Array to examine exchanges between the shelf and slope and the shelf ecosystem and provide insight into air-sea gas exchange, including carbon dioxide absorption. From the outset, NSF has committed to re-evaluating the placement of the Pioneer Array every five-to-seven years.

“Ideas Lab are designed to bring together people to innovate and invigorate their scientific and educational approaches. We hope by using this participatory process, current and future users of OOI data will deeply explore the opportunities of having an open-data real-time coastal ocean array in various locations within the US EEZ,” explained Clough. “It is our hope that by collectively considering what the optimal location for the Pioneer Array is, and to a certain extent what types of data will be collected and how, the decision-making process will also encourage new thinking.”

Plueddemann, who has been involved with 15 successful missions to recover and deploy equipment at the Pioneer Array, will introduce some of the technological, logistical and environmental considerations inherent in a decision to relocate the array.

“My role in this decision-making process is solely as an information broker,” explained Plueddemann. “Neither I nor anyone involved in the current Pioneer Array team will be involved in the process of deciding how and where the Pioneer Array might be relocated.  Our role will be to inform and advise on the feasibility of different concepts.”

Regardless of the location decision, the current team at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will continue to operate the Pioneer Array. Their formal role as operators of the Array entails expertise in the deployment, recovery, and maintenance of the equipment.


Potential Relocation of the Pioneer Array: Participate in the Process 

8 December from 11:15 am-noon











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The weather for the 15-day Pioneer 15 expedition aboard the R/V Neil Armstrong came in like a lion and left like a lamb. As the ship departed the Woods Hole dock on 28 October, the sky was gray, the air damp, and the forecast foreboding as the 10- member scientific team and the crew of the R/V Neil Armstrong headed toward the Pioneer Array, about 75 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

During Leg 1, the ship had some rocky days and briefly sought the protection of Menemsha Bight on the northwest side of Martha’s Vineyard as Tropical Storm Zeta passed through and brought her fury with her. Leg 2 of the journey brought with it clear skies and smooth sailing. The following shows the wind and pressure data from the ship throughout the Pioneer 15 cruise.

[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/AR48_Weather-1_annotated.jpg" link="#"]Wind speed, direction, and barometric pressure from the met mast of the R/V Neil Armstrong. The green lines indicate when the ship arrived at the Array, the red lines show when it departed. The solid lines are for Leg 1 and Leg 2, and the dashed lines are the excursion to Menemsha in Leg 1.  Credit: Sheri N. White (WHOI)[/media-caption]

Chief Scientist Sheri N. White said, “Despite the difficult weather, we had a very successful mission. The team recovered and deployed three coastal surface moorings and a profiler mooring, and deployed two winter coastal profiler moorings. We also were able to recover three gliders, and collect shipboard and CTD data in the vicinity of the Array.  We planned on a bit of flexibility in the schedule due to the late fall departure, which always brings with it unpredictable conditions.”

The expedition was conducted in two legs because all of the moorings could not be accommodated on the ship at the same time. The Team returned to home port at the conclusion of the cruise on 11 November, when they disembarked after a month of being either in isolation or at sea away from friends and family.

The recovered moorings are now undergoing refurbishment onsite at WHOI so they will be ready for the next equipment turn in spring 2021.  Next on tap for the Pioneer Array is the deployment of four gliders, Next on tap for the Pioneer Array is the deployment of four gliders, which will be done from a small vessel when the weather allows a safe transit.

Pioneer 15 in Pictures

[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/DSC_0138-scaled.jpg" link="#"]The Pioneer 15 Team deploys the Central Surface Mooring on Leg 1 in dreary weather. Credit: Dee Emrich©WHOI[/media-caption]

[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/DSC_0685-scaled.jpg" link="#"]The Pioneer 15 Team recovers the Inshore Surface Mooring. It had been in deployed in the water for 12 months. Credit: Dee Emrich©WHOI[/media-caption]

[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IMG_4234-scaled.jpg" link="#"]The Team dressed as oceanographers for Halloween… and deployed the Inshore Profiler Mooring in the few hours of clear skies between two storms at the Pioneer Array. Credit: Sheri N. White©WHOI[/media-caption]

[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IMG_4244-scaled.jpg" link="#"]The R/V Neil Armstrong left the WHOI dock on Leg 2 of the Pioneer 15 expedition, with the Central Surface Mooring in position for deployment. Credit: Sheri N. White©WHOI[/media-caption]

[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IMG_4245-scaled.jpg" link="#"]The Offshore Surface Mooring is ready for deployment on the stern of the R/V Neil Armstrong on Leg 2. Credit: Dee Emrich©WHOI[/media-caption]

[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IMG_4245-scaled.jpg" link="#"]Beautiful weather on Leg 2 made recovering the large surface moorings a bit easier. The surface moorings were deployed for 12 months, rather than six, due to the COVID pandemic. Credit: Jennifer Batryn©WHOI[/media-caption]

[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/PMOU-16_deploy.jpg" link="#"]This is what a Profiler Mooring looks like during deployment. Profiler Moorings collect data from the entire water column using a McLane Moored Profiler, which crawls up and down the mooring line. Credit: Sheri N. White©WHOI[/media-caption]

[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/ISSM_Biofouling.jpg" link="#"]This is some of the biology that has taken up residence on the Inshore Surface Mooring during its year-long stay on the Atlantic continental shelf. Credit: Dee Emrich©WHOI[/media-caption]


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[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Screen-Shot-2020-10-29-at-1.22.57-PM.png" link="#"]Figure 18.  Comparison of Sentinel-1 (S-1) SAR deep-learning predictions of significant wave height Hs and buoy measurements. (b) scatter plot of SAR Hs vs buoy Hs. (d) RMS error of SAR prediction vs. buoy measurements as a function of Hs; error bars show one standard deviation. From Quach et al. (2020).[/media-caption]

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensors on satellites measure backscatter from the ocean surface and can be used to estimate wave height at very high spatial resolution (~10 m) relative to satellite altimetry. Two Sentinel-1 satellites of the European Space Agency (ESA) collected SAR measurements of the ocean surface from 2015-2018, together covering the entire globe every six days. Data-driven approaches to predicting significant wave height (Hs) from SAR have either used relatively limited in-situ data sets or used a wave model (e.g. WaveWatch-3) as the “training” data for a deep learning approach.  Quach et al.(2020) improve on previous approaches to estimation of Hs from SAR by creating a comprehensive in-situ observational record. They compiled data from the US National Data Buoy Center and Coastal Data Information Program, Canadian Marine Environmental Data Services, the international OceanSITES project, and the OOI. Surface wave data sets from the OOI Irminger Sea, Argentine Basin and Southern Ocean surface buoys were used. The authors note the importance of the Southern Ocean Array, where “many of the largest wave heights are recorded… [from] an under sampled region of the ocean.”

The comprehensive in-situ data set is split into separate training and validation segments. When SAR Hs from training data are compared to altimeter Hs from the validation segment, the deep learning algorithm shows root-mean-square (RMS) error of 0.3 m, a 50% improvement relative to prior approaches. Comparison with the buoy validation segment (Fig. 18) shows RMS error of 0.5 m. The authors attribute the increased error to the larger number of extreme sea states in the observations and the relative paucity of extremes in the training data.

Observational sea state information is critical for understanding surface wave phenomena (generation, propagation and decay), predicting wave amplitudes, and estimating extreme sea states. Thus, the improvement in RMS error using the deep learning technique notable. The availability of in-situ data from extreme environments such as those sampled by the OOI Irminger Sea and Southern Ocean Arrays are key to validation of these new approaches.


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[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IMG_0034-scaled.jpeg" link="#"]The Pioneer 15 Team departs aboard the R/V Neil Armstrong, framed by equipment that awaits deployment on leg two. [/media-caption]

On October 28th, ten scientists and engineers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution departed aboard the R/V Neil Armstrong headed to the Pioneer Array, about 75 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard in the Atlantic Ocean. This trip is the 15th time that a team has traveled to the Pioneer Array to recover and deploy equipment at the site.

The team will recover and deploy three coastal surface moorings and a profiler mooring, and deploy two winter coastal profiler moorings. They will also conduct CTD (Conductivity, temperature, and depth) casts and water sampling at the deployment and recovery sites.  In addition, the team will compare ship and buoy meteorological measurements at the surface mooring sites as a way to validate the mooring measurements.

“We’ve been isolating for 14 days, have successfully passed 2 COVID-19 tests, and are ready to go, “ said Sheri White, chief scientist for Pioneer 15.  “This is a two-leg expedition because we can’t fit all of the moorings on the deck for one trip to the array.  We plan to be in port on November 4th to swap out gear, but we can adjust our schedule accordingly. If bad weather picks up, we can head back to port early to collect the equipment for leg two and not lose valuable time at sea when we can’t work due to weather.” The ship is expected to return from leg two on 11 November.

The surface moorings being recovered have been deployed for one year – six months longer than intended, due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and so are starting to experience some wear and tear.  The new moorings being deployed incorporate design updates intended to improve the robustness of components such as the wind turbines and stretch hoses.  The team  also will be deploying a prototype quad transducer for the ZPLSC instrument.  The ZPLSC is a bio-acoustic sonar which measures acoustic signals of plankton and zooplankton at the OOI Coastal Arrays.  It has transducers that emit at frequencies of 38, 125, 200 and 400 kHz (the latter three are all from a single quad-transducer). The new quad transducer design should lead to less failures and improved data collection for that instrument.

In addition to performing OOI tasks, the team will be conducting ancillary work to support the Northeast Shelf Long Term Ecological Research (NES-LTER) program.  This will include CTD casts, and sampling from the ship’s underway seawater system with an Imaging FlowCytobot (IFCB) instrument.

The members of the scientific party include:

Sheri White, WHOI, Chief Scientist

Chris Basque, WHOI, Deck Lead

Jennifer Batryn, WHOI, Instrument Lead

Collin Dobson, WHOI, Surface Mooring Lead

Meghan Donohue, WHOI, Deck Ops

Eric Hutt, UNOLS, Deck Ops

John Lund, WHOI, Profiler Mooring Lead

Josh Mitchell, UNOLS, Deck Ops

Rebecca Travis, WHOI, Documentation Lead

Dave Wellwood, WHOI, Water Sampling


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The Zoom screen was full as 40 people participated in the third of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s (WHOI) Data Science Summer Series on 4 August 2020.  Research Programmer Dr. Sage Lichtenwalner, of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, who helped design and implement the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) Ocean Data Labs, presented.

Lichtenwalner gave an overview of the many resources available through the Ocean Data Labs project, which is developing, testing, refining, and disseminating easy-to-use, interactive Data Explorations and Data Lab Notebooks for use in the classroom. Entertaining and information, the hour-long presentation flew by as Lichtenwalner presented tricks and tips to downloading OOI data, how to use OOI data in python and other computing platforms such as the Google Colab interface, and ended with a demonstration visualization of OOI data collected by its Pioneer Array. The complete webinar can be viewed here.

Dr. Stace Beaulieu, a senior research specialist in Biology and coordinator of WHOI’s Ocean Informatics Working Group, planned and hosted the session.




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