OOI Community Members Guide Pioneer Relocation

From 21-25 June, 37 members of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) community are participating 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 will work to identify the observatory opportunities that can be offered by the new Pioneer Array location. They will explore 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 will also evaluate challenges presented by deployment of Array infrastructure at a new location, and discuss 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, is facilitating 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, it is our hope that the innovative quality, outputs, and outcomes of the Lab will be 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.”

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Pioneer Array to Move to Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight in 2024

Planning and Implementation Updates

[toggle title_open="July 1, 2021: New Pioneer Array in the Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight Scoped" title_closed="July 1, 2021: New Pioneer Array in the Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight Scoped" hide="yes" border="yes"style="default"]

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.”

[/toggle] [toggle title_open="June 21-25, 2021: OOI Community Members Guide Pioneer Relocation" title_closed="June 21-25, 2021: OOI Community Members Guide Pioneer Relocation" hide="yes" border="yes"style="default"]
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.”

[/toggle] [toggle title_open="May 31, 2021: Applications for the Pioneer Array Phase 2 Innovations Lab" title_closed="May 31, 2021: Applications for the Pioneer Array Phase 2 Innovations Lab" hide="yes" border="yes"style="default"]

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.

[/toggle] [toggle title_open="April 30, 2021: NSF Selects Mid-Atlantic Bight for new Pioneer Array Location" title_closed="April 30, 2021: NSF Selects Mid-Atlantic Bight for new Pioneer Array Location" hide="yes" border="yes"style="default"]
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.

[/toggle] [toggle title_open="March 15-19 2021: Phase 1 Innovations Lab Considers Pioneer Array Location" title_closed="March 15-19 2021: Phase 1 Innovations Lab Considers Pioneer Array Location" hide="yes" border="yes"style="default"]

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.

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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.

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Pioneer Data Sheds Light on Massive Plankton Blooms

“The big mystery about plankton is what controls its distribution and abundance, and what conditions lead to big plankton blooms,” said Dennis McGillicuddy, Senior Scientist and Department Chair in Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

Two new papers explore this question and provide examples of conditions that lead to massive plankton blooms with vastly different potential impacts on the ecosystem, according to McGillicuddy, co-author of both papers. Both papers also point to importance of using advanced technology—including video plankton recorders, autonomous underwater vehicles, and the Ocean Observatories Initiative’s Coastal Pioneer Array—to find and monitor these blooms.

In one paper, Diatom Hotspots Driven by Western Boundary Current Instability, published in Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), scientists found unexpectedly productive subsurface hotspot blooms of diatom phytoplankton.

In the GRL paper, researchers investigated the dynamics controlling primary productivity in a region of the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB), one of the world’s most productive marine ecosystems. In 2019, they observed unexpected diatom hotspots in the slope region of the bight’s euphotic zone, the ocean layer that receives enough light for photosynthesis to occur. Phytoplankton are photosynthetic microorganisms that are the foundation of the aquatic food web.

It was surprising to the researchers that the hotspots occurred in high-salinity water intruding from the Gulf Stream. “While these intrusions of low‐nutrient Gulf Stream water have been thought to potentially diminish biological productivity, we present evidence of an unexpectedly productive subsurface diatom bloom resulting from the direct intrusion of a Gulf Stream meander towards the continental shelf,” the authors note. They hypothesize that the hotspots were not fueled by Gulf Stream surface water, which is typically low in nutrients and chlorophyll, but rather that the hotspots were fueled by nutrients upwelled into the sunlight zone from deeper Gulf Stream water.

With changing stability of the Gulf Stream, intrusions from the Gulf Stream had become more frequent in recent decades, according to the researchers. “These results suggest that changing large‐scale circulation has consequences for regional productivity that are not detectable by satellites by virtue of their occurrence well below the surface,” the authors note.

“In this particular case, changing climate has led to an increase in productivity in this particular region, by virtue of a subtle and somewhat unexpected interaction between the physics and biology of the ocean. That same dynamic may not necessarily hold elsewhere in the ocean, and it’s quite likely that other areas of the ocean will become less productive over time. That’s of great concern,” said McGillicuddy. “There are going to be regional differences in the way the ocean responds to climate change. And society needs to be able to intelligently manage from a regional perspective, not just on a global perspective.”

The research finding demonstrated “a cool, counterintuitive biological impact of this changing large scale circulation,” said the GRL paper’s lead author, Hilde Oliver, a postdoctoral scholar in Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering at WHOI. She recalled watching the instrument data come in. With typical summertime values of about 1-1.5 micrograms of chlorophyll per liter of seawater, researchers recorded “unheard of concentrations for chlorophyll in this region in summer,” as high as 12 or 13 micrograms per liter, Oliver said.

Oliver, whose Ph.D. focused on modeling, said the cruise helped her to look at phytoplankton blooms from more than a theoretical sense. “To go out into the ocean and see how the physics of the ocean can manifest these blooms in the real world was eye opening to me,” she said.

Another paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans (JGR: Oceans), A Regional, Early Spring Bloom of Phaeocystis pouchetii on the New England Continental Shelf, also was eye opening. Researchers investigating the biological dynamics of the New England continental shelf in 2018 discovered a huge bloom of the haptophyte phytoplankton Phaeocystis pouchetii.

However, unlike the diatom hotspots described in the GRL paper, Phaeocystis is “unpalatable to a lot of different organisms and disrupts the entire food web,” said Walker Smith, retired professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science William and Mary, who is the lead author on the JGR: Oceans paper. The phytoplankton form gelatinous colonies that are millimeters in diameter.

When Phaeocystis blooms, it utilizes nutrients just like any other form of phytoplankton would. However, unlike the diatoms noted in the GRL paper, Phaeocystis converts biomass into something that doesn’t tend to get passed up the rest of the food chain, said McGillicuddy.

“Understanding the physical-biological interactions in the coastal system provides a basis for predicting these blooms of potentially harmful algae and may lead to a better prediction of their impacts on coastal systems,” the authors stated.

Massive blooms of the colonial stage of this and similar species have been reported in many systems in different parts of the world, which Smith has studied. These types of blooms probably occur about every three years in the New England continental shelf and probably have a fairly strong impact on New England waters, food webs, and fisheries, said Smith. Coastal managers need to know about these blooms because they can have economic impacts on aquaculture in coastal areas, he said.

“Despite the fact that the Mid-Atlantic Bight has been well-studied and extensively sampled, there are things that are going on that we still don’t really appreciate,” said Smith. “One example are these Phaeocystis blooms that are deep in the water and that you are never going to see unless you are there because satellites can’t show them. So, the more we look, the more we find out.”

Both of these studies were carried out as part of the National Science Foundation-funded Shelfbreak Productivity Interdisciplinary Research Operation at the Pioneer Array involving partners at WHOI, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Wellesley College, and Old Dominion University. Additional support has been provided by the Dalio Explorer Fund.

For more information, see the video “Life at the Edge: Plankton Growth at the Shelf Break Front,” produced by ScienceMedia.nl for WHOI.

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OOI Pioneer Array to Relocate to MAB

It’s official, the next location of the OOI (Ocean Observatories Initiative) 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 Innovations Lab #1 is 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 National Science Foundation (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 second (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 Know Innovations, will again be facilitating the second Innovation Lab.

There is also an open to all Microlab scheduled for May 12th  if you are intrigued and want to learn more: (https://ooifb.org/meetings/pioneer-array-phase2/).

The ocean community is invited to help identify new design considerations that can enable exciting research endeavors at the chosen location.  Scientists, educators, and other stakeholders are encouraged to apply for the Phase 2 Innovations Lab. Please visit the OOIFB  website for more information.

 

 

 

 

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Sweet 16: Pioneer Array Successfully Turned

Twenty days at sea. Forty different at-sea operations.  Nine moorings recovered. Eight moorings, two coastal profiling gliders and two global test gliders deployed. Completion of more than 25 objectives during the 16th turn of the Coastal Pioneer Array.

By all counts, the Pioneer Array 16 expedition was a huge success. The scientific team was able to accomplish a full mooring service cruise in spite of COVID-imposed restrictions that restricted building occupancy for pre-cruise preparation, limited personnel onboard to accomplish the work and imposed a two-week quarantine period prior to boarding the ship.

“It’s always takes a focused effort from many people for a successful cruise, but COVID has made it harder.” said Al Plueddemann, chief scientist for Pioneer Array and principal investigator for the Ocean Observatory Initiative’s (OOI) Coastal and Global Scale Nodes. “The OOI team, the captain and crew of the Armstrong, and the shore-side support all put in a great effort to see this through to completion, while still operating at reduced efficiency under ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.”

A variety of atmospheric and oceanographic measurements are made prior to deployments and following recoveries for validation of mooring, glider, and AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) observations. The team also conducted cross-shelf and along-shelf CTD surveys and collected water samples adjacent to all the moorings. The team also surveyed the array’s region using shipboard sensors (ADCP, EK-80, and thermosalinograph).

In addition to the successful mooring operations, the Pioneer 16 team completed several mobile platform objectives as well.  For the spring and summer time period, two coastal profiling gliders were deployed to replace winter profiler moorings.  Two global test gliders were also put through their paces to ensure safe operation and reliable data delivery prior to operations at a global array. Two AUVs were launched and traveled pre-determined paths around the array before being recovered and having their data downloaded.  While the team was following the AUVs to ensure the missions were progressing as planned, they encountered a pod of about 40 pilot whales that included both young and adult whales. The team and the pod of whales were equally fascinated by each other. Both groups stopped to observe the other’s behaviors.

[caption id="attachment_20931" align="alignleft" width="300"] Photo: Rebecca Travis©WHOI.[/caption]

“The data we collect are helping scientists better understand the ocean environment and how it is changing.  Seeing the pilot whales reminded us of the importance of these observations, and the research they enable, to the marine ecosystem.” added Plueddemann.

 

 

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Assimilative Model Assessment of Pioneer Array Data

[caption id="attachment_21009" align="alignnone" width="974"] Fig. 1. Color contours of sea surface salinity from the model for three nested grids denoted a) G1, b) G2 (black square in (a)) and c) G3 (red square in (a), (b)). An indicator of frontal position (the 34.5 isohaline) is shown as a black contour. Cross-shelf exchange parameters are computed for an along-shelf section (thick black line). The Pioneer Array assets are shown in the G3 figure.[/caption]

Among the detailed analyses undertaken in this two-part study was quantification of the impact of observations on the reduction of RMS error for estimates of the volume transport across an along-front transect (Fig. 1). Temperature and salinity data from moorings and gliders were impactful for the larger grids (G1, G2). As the grid resolution was increased (G3), submesoscale motions were resolved and velocity data from the moorings became more important for reduction of error variance. An analysis of the sensitivity of shelf-slope exchange indices (e.g. volume transport) to removal of an observation, compared to the direct impact of the observation, showed that the majority of observed variables (e.g., SST, SSH, T, S, U, V) were “synergistic” – providing value to the assimilation through their connection with other variables as represented in the model dynamics. For the highest resolution estimates (G3 grid), the Pioneer Array observing assets were more impactful than other observations (e.g., remote sensing, NDBC and IOOS buoys) in reducing uncertainty, with velocity data being the major contributor. This is not a complete surprise, since the Pioneer Array was “tuned” to these scales. Still, it is gratifying to see that the impact on model fidelity is quantifiable.

The two-part study undertaken by Levin et al. provides a wealth of additional information about the performance of assimilative models as well as the utility of in-situ observations for modeling and prediction. As the authors state, they have “just begun to scratch the surface” of approaches that can be applied to the assessment of model performance as well as the management of observing systems.

Levin J., H.G. Arango, B. Laughlin, E. Hunter, J. Wilkin, and A.M. Moore, 2020. Observation impacts on the Mid-Atlantic Bight front and cross-shelf transport in 4D-Var ocean state estimates: Part I – Multiplatform analysis,Ocean Modeling, 156, 101721, 1-17, doi 10.1016/j.ocemod.2020.101721.

Levin J., H.G. Arango, B. Laughlin, E. Hunter, J. Wilkin, and A.M. Moore, 2021. Observation impacts on the Mid-Atlantic Bight front and cross-shelf transport in 4D-Var ocean state estimates: Part II – The Pioneer Array, Ocean Modeling, 157, 101731, 1-17, doi 10.1016/j.ocemod.2020.101731.

 

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Spring Expeditions: Keeping OOI Arrays Fully Operational

[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Endurance-14-departure-1-scaled.jpeg" link="#"]The Endurance Array 14 team is aboard the R/V Sikuliaq as she goes under the bridge at Newport, Oregon. The team will be at sea for 14 days recovering and deploying equipment to keep the array operational. Credit: David Neiman, OSU[/media-caption]

OOI teams were in the water on opposite coasts in late March to service the Pioneer and Endurance Arrays. The teams will “turn” the moorings (recover old and deploy new) to keep the arrays continually collecting and reporting data back to shore. This is the 14th turn of the Endurance Array; the 16th for the Pioneer Array.

The Endurance 14 Team set sail from Newport Oregon aboard the R/V Sikuliaq on 24 March for a 15-day expedition. The Pioneer 16 Team departed from Woods Hole, MA, a few days later on 29 March aboard the R/V Armstrong for a 21-day mission. Both expeditions will require two legs because of the need to transport a huge amount of equipment. The equipment for the Pioneer Array weighs more than 129 tons. The Endurance equipment tops the scale at 95 tons.

Departures for both teams occurred after arranging for reduced occupancy on site and social distancing during preparation, followed by 14 days of quarantine to meet COVID-19 restrictions. And while onboard, COVID has necessitated other changes ranging from smaller science parties to scheduled meal times to allow for social distancing.

“It is very impressive that the OOI team has been able to continue to service these arrays in spite of the challenges presented by COVID,” said Al Plueddemann, Chief Scientist of the Pioneer 16 Expedition. “The ocean is a tough environment in which to keep equipment operational, even in normal times. This year, in particular, has required both our shore-based staff and those onboard to be adaptable, flexible, and innovative to get the job done.”

[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/burnin_Travis.jpg" link="#"]The full cycle of preparation for an OOI mooring service cruise takes many months. The “burn-in” period for Pioneer-16, during which equipment is assembled and tested, began in January 2021 with snow on the ground outside of the LOSOS building on the WHOI campus. Credit:Rebecca Travis © WHOI.[/media-caption]

In addition to the mooring and deployment recoveries, both teams are deploying and recovering gliders that collect additional data within the water column and the area between the moorings. They also are conducting CTD casts and water sampling at the mooring sites, and doing meteorological comparisons between ship and buoys. The Pioneer Team will be operating autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), while the Endurance Team will have its inaugural use of OOI’s own remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to recover anchors at the Oregon shelf site.

“In normal times, we would invite external students and scientists along to conduct ancillary experiments on the cruise,” said Edward Dever, Chief Scientist for Endurance 14. “But given the limited science party allowed onboard due to COVID-19, the OOI team will be conducting some of this additional work to ensure the continuity of these experiments.”

For Endurance 14, this work includes collection of organisms that grow on panels attached to Endurance buoys for invasive species research, collection of settling organisms on devices attached to Multi-Function Nodes, which power near bottom data instruments, and test deployments of tagged fish acoustic monitors on near surface instrument frames on three moorings.

Likewise, the Pioneer 16 Team is helping ensure ongoing science investigations installing and operating unattended underway sampling for the Northeast U.S. Shelf Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project and conducting CTD casts at LTER sites during the cruise. They will also conduct communication tests at the Offshore mooring site in support of the Keck-funded 3-D Acoustic Telescope project.

Science teams of 9-10 people on each cruise are sharing the multitude of tasks needed for the moored array service.

[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads//2021/03/Screen-Shot-2021-04-01-at-9.19.20-AM.png" link="#"]OOI’s remotely operated vehicle will be used for the first-time during Endurance 14. Credit: Seaview Systems.[/media-caption]

 

 

 

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Women Who Make OOI Happen

 

[gallery columns="5" ids="20622,20617,20615,20620,20612"]

Keeping OOI operational and providing data around the clock requires a whole team of people working behind the scenes. Because March is Women’s History Month, we have taken the opportunity to ask a few women to share their stories about coming to and working for OOI. By featuring women who contribute to OOI’s success, we honor those women, past and present, who have made OOI possible.

Diana Wickman
Senior Engineering Assistant II
Diana’s job involves the operation, maintenance and piloting of OOI’s fleet of Slocum Gliders and two REMUS 600 AUVs. She is based at Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution.

How did you end up at OOI? When people ask me this question I often say “by accident.” I interviewed with OOI 11 years ago in early 2009 when the program was just kicking off. I had a degree in Marine Science from the University of Connecticut and was wrapping up a four-year stint in the US Air Force as a Satellite Communications Technician – an odd combo to say the least. I applied to be an electrical engineering technician but was instead offered the job of Configuration Manager. I had spent about three years doing configuration management when the program acquired its first Slocum Gliders. I remember walking past the gliders in the hallway one day, so shiny and yellow, and I was immediately hooked. I wanted to know all about these giant “tub toys.” The rest is history.

What is the most challenging part of your job? The most matter-of-fact answer to this question is: keeping the ocean OUT of the inside of the robot, but that is only half of the challenge. The ocean, especially the areas OOI operates in, is really good at breaking things. The OOI Gliders are designed to be deployed with no hands-on human interaction for up to one year at a time. When I’m in the lab working on the gliders I cannot stop at “it is working today,” I need to constantly be thinking “will this remain working for up to a year?”  It has been very challenging and also rewarding to learn a system well enough to be able to predict future failures and prevent them before they arise.

What do you enjoy most about your job? I’m only part joking when I tell people the robots are like my kids. They seem to have their own unique “personalities”; some are difficult and some are easy, some seem to love to be deployed and others seem to want to sit in the lab, some are warriors and others wave the white flag at the first sign of trouble. For me, the most rewarding part of the job is seeing the gliders succeed at their missions and come home after their long deployments. Finally getting them on the bench in the lab after a year apart is kind of surreal. I love the story each glider tells of its deployment through the engineering data it gathered at sea. In laying my hands on the vehicle again I become a detective of sorts: did the Glider have a run in with a shark, a near miss with a leak,  a collision with an ice berg?

Anything else you’d like to add? Having gone from the Air Force where my particular job was 96% male dominated, to ocean engineering which is also heavily male dominated (although there are many, many brilliant female engineers and engineering technicians at WHOI to look up to), I have no idea what it’s like to work in a non-male dominated career field. Being a woman in a very heavily male dominated career field has its challenges. There have been times I have been the only woman in a meeting, or on a vessel during a cruise (and often in those cases have been the one in charge). I have experienced people make assumptions about my role on the team, or my ability to do my job due to my gender. Luckily for me I’m loud, largely oblivious, and occasionally overconfident, which has helped me break through some of those gender assumptions that may have held other women back. For these traits I both thank and blame my paternal Grandmother.

Trina Litchendorf
Oceanographer IV
Trina is part of the OOI instrument team at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory, where they  test, maintain and deploy all the commercially-produced instrumentation on the Regional Cabled Array.

What does your job entail?
There are over two dozen different types of oceanographic instruments deployed on the Regional Cabled Array – from A to Z – ADCPs (acoustic Doppler current profilers) to zooplankton sonars, and everything in between: CO2 and pH sensors, CTDs, digital still cameras, fluorometers, hydrophones, oxygen optodes, seismometers, and velocity sensors, to name a few. Every summer I go to sea off the Oregon and Washington Coast with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Jason remotely operated vehicle (ROV) team. The ROV team recovers all of the instrument platforms that were deployed the previous year and then deploys and connects new instrument platforms. After the cruise, in the fall, we send all of the instruments recovered during the cruise, about 135 of them, to their manufacturers so the instruments can be refurbished and calibrated. The instruments start coming back from servicing in the late fall and throughout the winter. During that time, I thoroughly test the instruments to ensure they are working perfectly before they are mounted on their deployment platforms in the spring. Then they go through a round of integration testing on the platforms before the cruise. All of this careful testing ensures high-quality data and a low failure rate once the instruments are deployed. Come summer, I am back out at sea, ready to repeat the yearly maintenance cycle.

How did you end up in this job? I started working at the Applied Physics Lab as a full-time employee in 2001. The projects I have worked on since then have involved everything from lasers, gas chromatographs, and infra-red imagers to underwater vehicles, such as Seagliders and REMUS AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles). I also have been to sea numerous times for those projects. My familiarity with various oceanographic equipment and my sea-going experience made for a natural fit for the RCA Instrument Team, which I joined in 2015.

What is the most challenging part of your position? The cruises are the most challenging. They average about 40 days, give or take, and the work is non- stop. ROV operations happen around the clock and there is always a lot to do to get the instrument platforms ready to be deployed for the next dive. Every instrument must be powered on for one final check, the platforms must be rigged properly for the ROV, and every instrument on the platform must be photographed before we send it over the side. I also run some of the dives, sitting to the left of the ROV pilot in the control van and telling him or her the order of operations and which cables to plug in. These dives can sometimes last 12 hours or more and I usually pull a few all-nighters. During cruises, we have to come into port several times to offload all the recovered gear and load the next set of equipment, which we try to accomplish in a day or two. The cruises are like marathons and require a lot of stamina. It is also hard to be away from friends and family for so long, especially during the summer when Seattle has its best weather and I’m wearing a down jacket and wool cap because it’s so overcast and cold offshore.

What do you enjoy most about your job? The cruises. As challenging as they are, the cruises also offer the greatest rewards. I enjoy working with the undergraduate students who go to sea with us for their first oceanographic cruises; their enthusiasm reminds me of my first time at sea. There are beautiful sunrises and sunsets to see, the full moon shining on the ocean is stunning, and on moonless nights, the Milky Way is visible and the stars are spectacular. Whales and dolphins occasionally swim by, and there are incredible things to see on the seafloor with the ROV’s HD  (high-definition) cameras. My favorite part of the cruise every year is when we do photo-surveys of the hydrothermal vent fields and the lava flows at Axial Caldera. Seeing the interesting biology that lives at these depths and the unique lava and vent formations never gets old!

Anything else you’d like to add? In the early 2000’s, when I was an oceanography undergrad at the University of Washington, my Geological Oceanography course was taught by Drs. Deb Kelly and John Delaney. One day, Dr. Delaney gave a presentation to our class and described a revolutionary way the oceans would be studied in the future: with regional scale ocean observatories that could send data, in real time, over the Internet to scientists around the world. This was years before the Canadian NEPTUNE array, the world’s first such underwater observatory, had been deployed. I remember thinking what a fascinating idea that was. It’s amazing now to be a part of it all, going to sea alongside Dr. Kelly, and deploying the instruments that I tested on the array. I look forward to the future and a day when Dr. Delaney’s other vision is a reality: resident AUVs stationed year-round on the Regional Cabled Array, ready to be deployed immediately after an event such as an eruption at Axial Seamount.

Meghan Donohue
Senior Engineering Assistant I                                                                                                                                  Meghan’s job is ever-evolving. She recently changed from being a mooring tech at Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution, who served as the deck lead on multiple OOI cruises, to being a full-time OOI tech, who preps and builds the moorings for the cruises. Her new position allows her to play more with the computer side of things rather than focusing solely on mechanical issues.

How did you end up at OOI?  I was a hyper-focused child who knew from a very young age that I wanted to be an oceanographer. Everything I did, from going on my first real research cruise in high school on the R/V Connecticut to studying Marine Science Physics at the University of San Diego to getting my mariners license at the Maine Maritime Academy, eventually landed me here.  I worked for Scripps Institution of Oceanography as a shipboard tech, running the deck. I planned all the cruises, operated all of the oceanographic equipment and managed the computer systems on their smaller vessels. At Scripps, I met John Kemp, head of the WHOI mooring group, which eventually led to a job offer. The majority of the work I did for the WHOI mooring group was with OOI.

What is the most challenging part of your job? Balancing family and work has been my greatest challenge. Trying to rebalance that is part of the reason why I chose to change positions.

What do you enjoy most about your job? I like being able to teach the new techs and crew how to do the moorings.  And I enjoy splicing—the act of weaving a piece of line together. It’s just relaxing. In addition to splicing line on the global moorings, I also splice the lines used for the Pioneer ARMS and profiler linepacks.  I have made all of the ARMS linepacks with various helpers for the Pioneer cruises since the fall of 2014.

Kristin Politano
Faculty Research Assistant                                                                                                                                      Kristin works with a team at Oregon State University on instrument quality control, refurbishment, and data monitoring. She also manages mooring integration for the Endurance Array, which involves building and integrating the electrical components of the moorings with the instrumentation.

How did you end up at OOI? In 2016, I joined the Oregon State University branch of PISCO (Partnership for the Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans) as their lead mooring technician. That position allowed me to gain valuable experience with the process of building, integrating, deploying, and maintaining mooring systems. I participated in several OOI cruises while I was at PISCO and was able to meet the team of people who build and maintain the Endurance Array. When they eventually had an opening for a new position, I jumped at the chance to work with them full time.

What is the most challenging part of your job? Every new deployment brings its own set of challenges, but most of the big ones are time-related. We work closely with vendors and suppliers to stick to a timeline during builds, but it’s inevitable that delays in servicing or deliveries occur. When that happens, you have to be ready to move quickly when the parts eventually show up. Another big challenge is the lack of time to make significant improvements to the moorings. There are moments when we’re building the systems that we think “wouldn’t it be smarter it if we did it like this…” or “we could really make this more reliable if we changed that…” and often times the schedule doesn’t allow us the flexibility to make those changes.

What do you enjoy most about your job? I really enjoy problem solving, and in a lot of ways, the moorings are just like big puzzles. All the parts and pieces have to fit together perfectly for the system to function properly. Building the moorings in our shop and running them through integration and burn-in testing allows us to chase down and solve any issues that could mean the difference between a successful deployment, and a mooring that’s at sea for months with failed components. I like being able isolate and solve issues when they arise.

Jennifer Batryn
Engineer II
Jennifer works with (almost) all of the more than 1200 instruments that pass through the OOI program at WHOI. She is involved in the whole life cycle of the instruments, including testing, configuring, troubleshooting, deploying, data monitoring, and refurbishment.

How did you end up at OOI? I received my degree in mechanical engineering, thinking that I would end up in some sort of aeronautics or robotics field. I had never really considered a career centered around the ocean until taking part in a research program through my university. Through that program, we traveled to Malta for a month and collaborated with local archeologists, using small ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) and an AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) to map out wells, cisterns, an underwater cave, and other features of interest around the island. Being able to work with interesting technology, travel and do field work, and collaborate with a multidisciplinary group really appealed to me, and I was sold on ocean research after that. I got involved with any ocean-based work I could afterwards, including internships at UC San Diego, National Geographic, and a summer fellowship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. After college, I was thrilled to find my way back to WHOI, where I joined the OOI team.

What is the most challenging part of your position? Schedules and lack of time are the most challenging parts. Depending on how our cruise schedule line up for a particular year, it can be a surprisingly tight turnaround between recovering a set of moorings and when we need to make everything ready to deploy again. Inevitably, we have sensors and other components that come back from sea damaged. We then run into schedule conflicts with vendors and suppliers, and later discover instrument communication or sampling issues during our burn-in/testing period that need troubleshooting. The ship is going to sail regardless, which leaves very limited flexibility with timing, and sometimes there’s a real crunch period leading up to a deployment. It can also be very challenging to ensure we get good data for the entire duration of any particular deployment. The ocean is a tough environment for electronics and sensors, especially when in the water for prolonged periods. We run into problems with biofouling, physical damage from severe storms, icing, waves, or vibrations, and limitations of battery life, reagent, and other consumables.

What do you enjoy most about your job? Going to sea to support deployments and recoveries of our moorings is a nice change of pace from working in the lab and is very rewarding (if not exhausting). It’s great to see all of the work building up and burning-in of the mooring to that final end product of deployment in the ocean for six months to a year. It’s also great seeing all the data successfully come through back to shore. Long, tiring days at sea are offset by seeing all the wildlife and other natural sights in the open ocean (starry nights with no light pollution, Northern lights, stormy seas, icebergs, etc.), and traveling to different ports and experiencing different parts of the world. My dog (Teddy) was actually a Chilean street dog that I met while down in Punta Arenas preparing a mooring before a cruise. I ended up falling in love and bringing him back home with me after the cruise. Hard to beat that! It also has been really rewarding to see more people actually using OOI data, knowing that the work we are putting in is going towards the creation of a really unique, long-term data set.

Anything else you’d like to add? Going to school in such a male dominated field, it has been neat to find a core group of really smart and talented women within OOI. Everyone comes from such diverse backgrounds, and yet we all found our way to this project. Naturally the whole team is great though. It is equal parts entertaining and inspiring to work alongside everyone on our team, whether in the lab, on deck deploying a mooring, or scraping barnacles after a recovery.

 

Photo Credits from top

Diana Wickman headshot and glider Photo: Diana Wickman©WHOI for both

Trina Litchendorf securing oceanographic instruments on the Science Pod platform prior to a cruise. Photo: Dana Manalang

Meghan Donohue Photo: ©WHOI

Kristin Politano Photo: OSU

Jennifer Batryn in the freezer of the R/V Armstrong working on instrument calibrations at a controlled (cold) temp during the Pioneer 16 operation and maintenance cruise. Photo: Rebecca Travis©WHOI

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