Distributed Acoustic Sensing Lays Groundwork for Earthquake, Tsunami Warnings, and More

Researchers using the OOI Regional Cabled Array are at the forefront of testing Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) along the seafloor through funding from the National Science Foundation. Ocean-bottom DAS using submarine fiber optic cables promises to advance what we know about marine geology, offshore earthquakes, ocean currents, ocean waves, sediment transport, marine mammals, and a host of other activities that now can be measured by this revolutionary technique.

Taking advantage of a rare temporary shutdown of RCA’s submarine fiber optic cables during a shore station maintenance period, University of Washington Researcher William Wilcock and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Graduate Student in Geophysics Ethan Williams were part of a team of scientists who installed DAS interrogators on RCA’s “dark cables” to test and collect data for a community experiment.  The experiment was designed to determine the potential of submarine DAS to observe seismic, oceanographic, acoustic and geodetic processes.  Each interrogator transmitted laser pulses down the fiber optic cable from RCA’s shore station and across the offshore Cascadia Margin and recorded the echoes that came back. This backscatter remains constant until some movement on the bottom or in the water column perturbs the fibers in the cable, changing the pattern of backscattered light.  By rapidly probing the cable hundreds of times per second, DAS allows researchers to monitor what’s happening in the cable environment.

“Using DAS, the fiber optic cable acts, in effect, like a line of seismometers that can measure the stretching and contracting of the ground, “explained Wilcock. “It’s an amazing technology, similar to going out in the field and putting a seismic instrument every 10 meters for a stretch of 100 kilometers. So it’s just astounding in terms of what it can potentially measure,” said Wilcock.

The DAS system also has the capability of measuring other oceanographic signals.  “It turns out that ocean bottom acoustic sensing on these fiber optic cables is as sensitive to the water layer above as it is to the solid Earth below.  This sensitivity provides all sorts of really interesting signals that you would normally observe using an ocean bottom pressure sensor.  DAS is opening up the door for lots of interesting research opportunities,” said Williams, who has been working with DAS systems for years under the supervision of Zhongwen Zhan at Caltech, one of the world’s foremost experts in the field.

Among the many potential ways DAS data might be used include advancing earthquake and tsunami early warning systems, and understanding wave and current action, sediment transport, and ocean-generated seismic noise, as well as providing biological information.  In Wilcock’s case, he’s excited about using DAS to gain access to fin whale calls that were picked up by this DAS experiment.

The National Science Foundation funded this experiment in the hopes of developing protocols that can support the use of DAS for science and hazards mitigation in the Northeast Pacific while meeting national security requirements. The U.S. Navy conducted a preliminary review of the data and subsequently released the data for public use.  The data are being stored on RCA servers at the University of Washington.  Researchers will have ftp access to the data at this link.  But because the full data set is 26 terabytes, researchers can also email ooicable@uw.edu to arrange to provide disks that will be returned with data they are interested in.

Four days of continuous measurements in this dynamic offshore environment also offer a potential treasure trove of data.  Graduate student Williams is turning his attention to exploring these datasets and calibrating them against conventional measurements to better understand what some of the potential applications may be. “I’m very excited about the potential DAS brings to understanding what’s happening on the seafloor.  Having, in essence, so many seismometers on the ocean floor means that we can apply all sorts of array-based processing so we’re not only averaging in time, we’re combining information in space. And this allows a lot of really innovative things that we weren’t able to do before.”

“But the real value of these datasets comes from being an open dataset. It will be a great facilitator for learning with the potential to expand general knowledge about how to use DAS in the marine geology and marine geophysics world, which is great,” Williams added.

Both Wilcock and Williams were excited about the potential for DAS to open up understanding of the processes involved in this deep-sea world.  They both mentioned a dream of having DAS sensors integrated into future SMART cable technology to expand DAS use on land and in the sea.




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Axial Seamount Continues to Reveal Its Secrets

Axial Seamount is the longest monitored mid-ocean ridge volcano, providing new insights into the relationships among magma supply, uplift-deflation behavior, and seismicity leading to and follow eruptions. Results are as summarized here from a new comprehensive publication by Chadwick et al., 2022.

[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Axial.png" link="#"]a) Cross section cartoon showing shallow magma chamber beneath Axial fed by a series of stacked sills. Upward migrating of melt through the sills results increases pressure in the shallow chamber causing uplift and associated earthquakes. b) Exponential increase in earthquakes per meter of uplift since the 2015 eruption. c) Earthquakes per meter of uplift before March 12, 2015 follow an exponential increase, while post this day earthquakes follow a linear trend leading up to the April 24, 2015 eruption. (After Chadwick et al., 2022; Figures 6 and 13).[/media-caption]

The magma supply rate has changed significantly over periods of months to years.  Since the 2015 eruption, the summit of the volcano has been inflating at a decreasing rate. This re-inflation was punctuated by eight discrete short-term deflation events occurring over 1-3 weeks, approximately every 4-6 months from August 2016 to May 2019. These deflation events were coincident with an abrupt decrease in seismic activity, which did not pick up until reinflation resumed. In contrast, the long-term monitoring indicates that there was a surge in magma supply between 2011 and 2015, resulting in the two eruptions closely spaced in time.

Although the summit of the volcano has inflated 85%-90% of its pre 2015 eruption level, the geodetic and seismic monitoring suggests that the magma supply rate has been waning since 2015, pushing the forecast for the next eruption out 4-9 years. The data since 2015 also show that the deformation and seismic activity are tightly coupled, showing an exponential increase in seismic activity per unit of uplift. A significant conclusion from this study is that the transition from an exponential to linear increase in seismic activity to total uplift may indicate impending crustal failure between the shallow magma chamber and the seafloor. In concert, these results may lead to more refined forecasting of future eruptions of this highly active volcano and the testing of hypotheses concerning the short-term deflation events.


Chadwick, W.W., Jr., W.S.D. Wilcock, S.L. Nooner, J.W Beeson, A.M. Sawyer, and T.-K. Lau (2022) Geodetic monitoring at Axial Seamount since its 2015 eruption reveals a waning magma supply and tightly linked rates of deformation and seismicity. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 23, e2021GC01053.

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Applications Open for June Northeast Pacific OOIFB Workshop

Northeast Pacific OOI Community Workshop
June 7, 8, and 9, 2022
Portland, Oregon
The application form is now open!
Application Deadline:  March 20, 2022 

                                                                                                                                                                 The Ocean Observatories Initiative Facility Board (OOIFB) will host a workshop focusing on current and future science that can be addressed using data from OOI’s infrastructure in the Northeast Pacific and other regional observatory arrays. The workshop will be held at the OSU Portland Center in Portland, OR on June 7-9, 2022. This workshop was scheduled to be held in 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The OOIFB is hopeful that in June 2022 members of OOI’s community can safely come together for a productive workshop. A hybrid model with in-person along with options for virtual participation is planned.

The workshop is aimed at researchers who are using or are considering using OOI data; resource managers from national, state, and tribal agencies; and educators at all levels interested in using data from the OOI’s Regional Cabled, Coastal Endurance, and Global Station Papa Arrays.

The workshop will inform the research community of the available data and science opportunities offered by the OOI and other observatory arrays located in the Northeast Pacific. An overview of OOI data products, user interfaces, and system features will be provided along with hands-on demonstrations using data access tools. OOI Program Team members and NSF representatives will be on hand to answer questions and provide information on OOI operations.

The workshop will provide a forum to facilitate science collaborations, identify strategies for engaging future users of OOI, and build cross-network collaborations. Community-building and expanding broader impacts will be discussed. Workshop participants will have the opportunity to provide feedback on their experiences in working with the OOI systems and data.

To apply for the workshop, please complete the on-line application form that is available on the workshop web page. Please indicate how you plan to participate in the workshop (in person or virtual) when completing the form. Travel support is available, but limited. Broad representation from institutional, geographic, and disciplinary groups is desired and will be considered in participant selection. The deadline for applications is March 20, 2022.

Additional details about the workshop and agenda are available here.



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Two Artists at Sea

Spider crabs, 2021. Catherine Gill painted spider crabs on a new lava flow erupted in the summit of Axial Seamount in 2011.

Two artists were aboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson during this summer’s OOI Regional Cabled Array VISIONS’21 cruise. Undergraduate student Genevieve Kent was leaving the Thompson for Leg 1 of the four-week cruise. Professional artist and lifelong learner, Catherine Gill, was was onboard for Legs 3 and 4 of the summer expedition, including an extra two days at sea while the Thompson was diverted for a rescue mission of two Ocean Exploration Trust remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

While their physical paths didn’t cross aboard the ship, each spent their time similarly while onboard – serving as a member of the scientific party, taking regular shifts to ensure samples were collected and underwater footage from the ROV Jason was catalogued and archived.  They also spent whatever free time they had capturing their experiences in creative endeavors.

Catherine Gill

Because of space limitations on the ship, Gill came equipped with only those supplies that would allow her to draw and paint in very limited space. As a plein air painter, Gill has painted everywhere from in a kayak to in the forest canopy, so she knew what kind of supplies she would need.  She brought with her the basics – a standing tripod easel and a small palette. She also brought with her a very small kit that she could keep on her lap and create 5×7 paintings.

“It’s very busy on these legs, but whenever I could find an hour, maybe an hour and a half, I would find a spot on the ship. And I’d set up and do paintings of whatever was happening, putting the new profiler in or pulling up the old one, or capturing some of the very cool stuff on cameras being broadcast by the ROV Jason,” she said. “’I’m sitting there in the Jason control van and watching these scenes that are amazing. There’s different sea life coming from all over the place. The ROV lands on the bottom and you see chimneys and all of the amazing sea life that is down there.  It was just incredible.”

Gill painted as things unfolded aboard the Thompson and took screen shots of Jason scenes so she would have a point of reference later on. Regional Cabled Array Principal Investigator Deb Kelley also provided Gill with Jason video that Gill took home to her studio to create bigger paintings of the sea life and Jason operations after she left the ship.

But Gill recounted that she was most at home aboard the ship, painting the experience in real time in “plein air.”

“Because I paint on location, not just from photographs, I know there’s a real difference when you paint from life than when you paint from a photograph. The marks you make are more convincing. If you feel the cold, if you’re aware of the silence, if the wind is blowing on you, you give your painting more than just what your eyes can see,” she explained.  But I couldn’t get down to the seafloor to actually paint on location, so having access to video is the next best thing. Having high-definition video to paint from, I can get the feel of what that weird fish is doing, better understand the complexity of those tube worms and deep-sea critters all moving and doing their things, and watch that hydrothermal vent smoking and interacting with the seawater.”

Gill created 13 drawings and paintings while onboard.  After her return, she has created another eight to 10 larger-scale paintings. More of her work can be seen on her website, Instagram, and Facebook (Catherine Gill).

Genevieve Kent

Kent, a third-year undergraduate student studying marine biology at the University of Washington, merged her passion for marine science with her artwork while aboard the Thompson.  Her interest in marine science was sparked during a seminar class on hydrothermal deep sea vents taught by Kelley. Kent took advantage of the opportunity to participate in a shipboard experience that she learned about in this class to see if she really wanted to pursue a career in marine science.

Kent was accepted to participate in VISIONS’20, but student participation was postponed until 2021 due to COVID restrictions. So, she jumped at the opportunity to sail on the Thompson a year later as part of the VISIONS’21 student contingent.

Her favorite part of the experience was doing shifts in the control van, where her job was to log everything that was happening with Jason as it was used to recover and deploy equipment plugged into the Regional Cabled Array. “I really liked being able to be a part of what was happening. It reminded me a lot of when I was a stage manager for live theater, being in the hot seat and you have to know your role in everything. But it was also really amazing to watch the monitors in real time and see all that was happening there, live and being a part of it.”

Kent works in many mediums from water colors to acrylic paints, to markers, but for this project she chose water colors because they fit the theme of the ocean and can help evoke its many changing moods. While Kent is not a professionally trained artist, she is naturally talented. She used her time in the control van to sketch with colored pencils and capture images of marine life on the bottom that she painted when she returned to her in-home studio.

Once home from the cruise, Kent immediately sat down and started to capture her experiences in watercolors. She used her sketches and images as source material. She is spending as much time as possible on her artwork, as she resumed classes and labs as a full-time student.  She has completed several paintings of marine life and has many others in varying stages of completion. Kent can be contacted here.

Plans are in the works to have both artists show their creations at an exhibit at the University of Washington later this spring.  A sneak preview is provided below:

[gallery size="large" ids="22910,22909,22896,22897,22898,22913,22904,22903,22899,22905,22912,22907,22900,22901,22902"]







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RCA Recording Swarm of Earthquakes in Real Time

On December 7, 2021 a swarm of earthquakes began on the Blanco Transform Fault, a major plate boundary at the southern end of the Juan de Fuca Plate. The ongoing seismic swarm is being tracked live by the National Science Foundation’s underwater observatory, the Regional Cabled Array (RCA). The RCA is a component of NSF’s Ocean Observatories Initiative and is operated and maintained by the University of Washington. It includes ~900 km of high power and high bandwidth submarine fiber optic cables that stretch from Pacific City, OR out to the most active volcano off the coast “Axial Seamount” that erupted in 1998, 2011 and again in 2015. A second cable heads south along the Cascadia Subduction Zone and turns east along the Cascadia Margin off Newport, OR. Over 150 instruments on the seafloor and on instrumented moorings provide real-time data flow to shore at the speed of light. A suite of seismometers at the summit of Axial Seamount lit up on December 7, 2021 as the seismic swarm began along the Blanco. This live feed was developed by the UW Applied Physics Laboratory.



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Katie Bigham: From VISIONS Student to Co-Chief Scientist

Katie Bigham feels like her journey with the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) has come full circle. She first visited Axial Seamount as a University of Washington (UW) School of Oceanography undergraduate participant on the Regional Cabled Array (RCA) VISIONS 2014 program when the underwater observatory was being installed. This summer, she returned to Axial Seamount on her seventh cruise, this time as a Co-Chief Scientist.

[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Katie_V15_byLauren_DSC_0069.sm-copy-scaled.jpg" link="#"]Katie Bigham on the R/V Thomas G. Thompson. Credit: L. Kowalski, University of Washington, V15.[/media-caption]

Katie was excited to step into the role of Co-Chief Scientist on the fourth leg of the annual RCA operations and maintenance cruise (VISIONS’21). She previously participated in many other roles on the ship and was looking forward to a new challenge sailing as a Chief Scientist aboard a global class research ship.

Her responsibilities as Co-Chief Scientist included much planning and communication during the round-the-clock operations and numerous remotely operated vehicle dives. “It’s really about keeping everybody who’s invested in the voyage up to date, from the RCA team itself, to the Captain and crew, to the VISIONS’21 students, to the RCA team shore-side,” she says. Katie credits the success of leg four to the OOI RCA team aboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson and strong shore support. “I felt well-supported in my first time as Co-Chief, and that helped me step up to the challenge,” she says.

Katie says the coolest part of being on the cruise was working with recent UW graduate Katie Gonzalez. She met the younger Katie when she went to visit her school for an outreach event in the far western reaches of the Olympic Peninsula and later mentored her in the lab for a year. “To see her very confidently and competently prepping the osmotic fluid samplers and then sharing with the ROV pilots what the goals of the installation dive were, and what was needed for this instruments deployment within and active vent site was really cool,” she says.

Katie Bigham grew up as the granddaughter of a commercial fisherman and spent a lot of time on the water, but she didn’t know that oceanography was something people studied until high school, when she interned with an oceanography graduate student at UW. The lab was very welcoming to her, and she attended the lab’s summer barbecues and dissertation defenses in between her work helping to culture Arctic bacteria.

After that experience, Katie initially wanted to study geology at Arizona State University, but she decided to stay closer to home and attend UW instead. When she remembered how welcoming the oceanography lab was, she decided to take oceanography classes, and that’s when things started coming together. Early in her college career, Katie took Dr. Deb Kelley’s hydrothermal vents class and came away from it wanting to see the underwater hot spring environments in person and work with Dr. Kelley and the OOI team.

“Deb bringing me onboard as a VISIONS student and then mentoring me through that process was what helped me know I wanted to stay in oceanography,” Katie explains. “I was really inspired by her research and her work with students, and I’d really like to continue in academia because of her influence. I wouldn’t be doing the things I’m doing without all her support.”

[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/20210903_100228_01-scaled.jpg" link="#"]VISIONS’21 Leg 4 students and participants. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington, V21.[/media-caption]

Katie is currently pursuing a joint PhD at the Victoria University of Wellington and the National Institutes of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand. She is continuing with deep-sea science, researching the impact of turbidity currents, or underwater landslides, on benthic communities living in submarine canyons. This work builds on some of the work she did for her undergraduate senior thesis mapping megafauna at methane seeps along the RCA. Katie hopes that her research will be helpful for management of marine protected areas in New Zealand and inform about impacts in other marine canyons, such as those on the Cascadia Margin.

Katie returned to Washington from New Zealand during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been able to continue her writing and data analyses while abroad from an office within the RCA space. Ironically, thanks to the pandemic, she was able to participate in this year’s RCA cruise.

After she obtains her PhD, Katie hopes to continue her research as a postdoc. “I would really like to bring what I’ve learned during my PhD and my experiences with the RCA back together,” she comments. “I’d love to do a postdoc working with RCA data.”

[media-caption type="video" path="https://youtu.be/_YOsgNNLOP8" alt="Katie's video on YouTube" link="#"] Katie Bigham also played an instrumental role in the production of this video that was a project for the VISION’14 class. It was selected as one of the top ten videos in a nationwide contest sponsored by the Florida Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence. The video has been viewed by nearly 38,000 student judges in 1,600+ classrooms in 21 countries. [/media-caption]


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37-day RCA Cruise Met All Objectives and More

This summers’ Regional Cabled Array (RCA) 37-day expedition was one of the most complex of the seven annual Operations and Maintenance cruises to date. Not only was the expedition impacted by COVID restrictions, but it also included four Legs, a full contingent of engineers, scientists, students, and the Jason team, as well as coordinated ship operations with the R/V Thompson, the IT Integrity cable support ship, and the Ocean Exploration Trust ship the E/V Nautilus. However, thanks to the hard work of the RCA staff, and amazing support from the R/V Thompson (Captain Dave Vander Hoek) and ROV Jason teams, (Expedition Leads Ben Tradd and Mario Fernandez) the expedition was highly successful with the completion of all scheduled tasks…and more.

The expedition was led by Chief Scientists Mike Vardaro (Leg 1) and Orest Kawka (Legs 2-4), and Co-Chief Scientists James Tilley (Legs 1-3), Wendi Ruef (Leg 1 – this was the first time Ruef has sailed as a Co-Chief Scientist), Mike Vardaro (Leg 2), and Katie Bigham (Leg 4). Katie will receive her Ph.D. in 2022 from the University of Wellington, NZ. This cruise provided her a strong early career foundation for becoming a future Chief Scientist. James Tilley was the lead engineer and Larry Nielson led shore support.

COVID safety protocols significantly increased cruise complexities, which included the verification of full COVID vaccination status for all ship and science party members, ensuring that all participants sheltered-in-place, and the arrangement of COVID tests spanning both Washington and Oregon testing sites. The RCA team is highly appreciative of the exceptional support that the UW Marine Operations group provided to ensure our safety, the dynamics of crew changes, and modification of dock-side logistics in response to IT Integrity and E/V Nautilus operations.

[media-caption path=”https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/PD01A_20210821_084428_recovery-scaled-1.jpeg” link=”#”]The Slope Base Deep Profiler Mooring comes aboard the R/V Thompson. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington, V21. [/media-caption]

Highlights: During the four Legs, just over 200 RCA Core and PI instruments were recovered/deployed, the Platform Interface Assemblies and Science pods on all three Shallow Profiler Moorings were turned, Deep Profiler vehicles were turned at the Oregon Offshore and Axial Base sites, and the Deep Profiler mooring was turned at Slope Base. Of particular note, the southern cable line was repaired, resulting in the return of full operational status for Primary Nodes PN1C and PN1D, providing communications and data flow once again to/from the Oregon Offshore and Shelf sites.

Over the 37 days of staging, mobilization, and demobilization for the four Legs, twenty 48 ft trailers transported 394,000 pounds of RCA equipment to and from Seattle, WA and Newport, OR. Onboard staffing included twenty-one RCA scientists and engineers, 13 ROV Jason crew, 16 students, 1 postdoc, and an artist, as well as two research scientists. During the 30 at-sea days, including two to aid in the recovery of the Ocean Exploration Trust ROV Hercules and Argus vehicle from the Endeavour Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge, the R/V Thompson transited ~1775 miles, 49 Jason dives were completed traversing a total of~ 125,000 meters of the water column, seven CTD casts with water sampling were completed spanning maximum cast depths of 200 m to ~ 2900 m, and two EM302 bubble plume surveys were conducted over methane seep sites at Southern Hydrate Ridge and Pythias Oasis. Finally, a new, highly active methane seep area was discovered east of the novel Pythias Oasis vent site, which has been continuously venting since its discovery in 2014.

PN1B: During Legs 1 and 2, significant and dynamic coordination was required to ensure that the R/V Thompson and C/S Integrity operations (lead by APL Engineer Chuck McGuire) were tightly coupled and that shore cranes and trucks were in place for mobilization and demobilization of both the RCA cruise gear and that associated with the recovery-repair of Primary Node PN1B. Three dives (August 5: J2-1342, and August 10-11: J2- 1342, and J2-1354) were dedicated to disconnection of cables, preparation of PN1B for recovery, and recovery of a ½ frame deployed by the Integrity, which was utilized for installation of the recovery line. The R/V Thompson-ROV Jason operations went well. Although the replacement PN1B installation could not be completed, the cable Segments 2-3 were joined and then successfully installed on August 23 – reinstating power and communications to Primary Nodes PN1C and PN1D. Unfortunately, the Southern Hydrate Ridge site will remain offline until next year, when PN1B can be reinstalled. However, joining of the segments allowed 76% of the instruments to go live again that had been offline since August 2020, as well as the Shallow Profiler and Deep Profiler moorings and BEP at the Oregon Offshore site, and the BEP and other seafloor instruments at the Oregon Shelf site.

VISIONS’21: Once again, live streaming of video and updates on the cruise were provided on the interactiveoceans website as part of the UW- RCA VISIONS’21 engagement efforts and highlights were provided on Instagram and Twitter. The 16 undergraduates that participated on the cruise worked four-hour shifts in the ROV control van, they learned how to process and analyze CTD samples, and they helped with cleaning of recovered RCA equipment (a big hit). Their enthusiasm permeated the team and their hard work contributed significantly to the cruise. We were grateful to have a resident watercolor artist onboard who shared aspects of the cruise and seafloor and biological observations through her eyes. The students shared their experiences through blogs and for many it changed their lives – a few examples of their impressions:

I found this to be a once in a lifetime opportunity and [it] offered me a broader perspective of how much preparation and consideration goes into the planning and execution of the research projects being facilitated through the OOI VISION’s expedition. It opened my eyes to the full circle of science.

This has truly been one of the coolest experiences I’ve had …. after 4 quarters of zoom classes and online labs, I’ve been so happy to finally get a feel for oceanographic research out in the field and to work with the instruments I’ve been learning about for a year and a half.

As a kid, I watched documentaries about the deep sea and imagined myself descending into the depths with the camera, sometimes sitting in a cardboard box “submarine” that I made. Being here and getting to work in the Jason van feels like accomplishing some part of that dream, and I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to come on this trip. I’ve also come away with a better idea of how data are collected at sea, and in speaking with the scientists onboard I’ve gained a better understanding of how one goes about getting into the field.

Externally Funded Projects: The 2021 program was also another successful field season for turning, and installation, and recovery of instrumentation, and for science programs funded outside of OOI. This work included:

  • The turning of NSF-funded CTDs at the ASHES hydrothermal field and at the Eastern Caldera sites, as well as installation of a new CTD at Central Caldera at the summit of Axial Seamount (W. Chadwick, Oregon State University – OCE 1928282 “Phase 2 of Enhancements to the OOI Cabled Array at Axial Seamount”). [1-day]
  • The reinstallation of the University of Bremen-Germany-funded cabled overview multibeam sonar for imaging of all methane plumes at Southern Hydrate Ridge (G. Bohrmann and Y. Marcon -University of Bremen – Sonar monitoring of natural release of methane greenhouse gas from the seafloor – A contribution to the understanding of global change), the 4K camera, and turning of a CTD. [1-day]
  • Installation of an NSF-funded new Pinnacle ADCP at the Central Caldera site to provide, for the first real-time, monitoring of currents throughout the entire ~1500 m water column (D. Manalang and D. Kelley, University of Washington – OCE 2129943 “RAPID: OOI-Industry Partnership to Install a Cabled 45 kHz ADCP at Axial Seamount Caldera”). This effort is in partnership with Teledyne Marine.
  • Recovery of a NSF-funded self-calibrating pressure sensor at the geodetic-focused Central Caldera site (William Wilcock, University of Washington – OCE 1634103 – “A Rotating Tiltmeter for Marine Geodesy: Development and Testing at Axial Seamount on the Ocean Observatories Initiative Cabled Array”).
  • A NSF-funded dive to complete site characterization, based on an ~ 1 m resolution bathymetry Sentry map, of the Pythias Oasis ridge. The dive focused on a “gully” that runs parallel to the ridge and s significant depression at the termination of the ridge (D. Kelley, University of Washington – OCE 1658201 “Collaborative Research: Pythia’s Oasis – Access to Deep Subduction Zone Fluids”). Pythias Oasis is venting fluids unlike any yet discovered in the world’s oceans. They are likely sourced at/near the plate boundary. Evidence of additional sites of seepage were discovered. [1-day]
  • Three dives funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (D. Kelley, University of Washington – M21AC00009-00 “Arctic Marine Mineral Exploration – Ramen Laser Spectroscopy Validation”) at the ASHES hydrothermal field in support of the NASA InVADER program. Major and gas-tight vent fluids and several sulfide samples were recovered, and a couple microbial incubation experiments were deployed [1-day].

Recovery of the ROV Hercules and Argus Vehicle: On August 26th, the Ocean Exploration Trust ROVs Hercules and Argus became detached from the tether on the E/V Nautilus working east of the Main Endeavour Field (MEF) on the Endeavour Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge (2220 m). After a flurry of phone calls and Zoom meetings, the R/V Thompson, RCA, and OET (Expedition Lead Allison Fundis) teams came together for a community effort to recover the vehicles. The R/V Thompson transited ~ 10 hrs north to the MEF where there were two Jason dives to facilitate the September 2 successful recovery of the vehicles back onboard the E/V Nautilus. The effort required extension of the RCA cruise by two days, and it was a weary team that pulled back into Newport on September 3. Demobilization was complete on September 4th.


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Kathleen Gonzalez: Student Ambassador for VISIONS’21 Expedition

The first time Katie Gonzalez went to sea was as a student participant on the 2017 Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) annual operations and maintenance Regional Cabled Array (RCA) VISIONS’17 cruise. From that experience, she knew that whatever she did in the future needed to involve the oceans.

Katie recently graduated as a first-generation college student from the University of Washington (UW) with her bachelor’s degree in biological oceanography. But despite her young age, she has amassed a vast amount of sea-going experience. This year marks her fifth time joining the RCA VISIONS cruises, and the third time she has participated in all legs of the expedition.

Last year, when UW limited the number of people who could go on the cruise due to COVID restrictions, Katie was one of only two student participants aboard. As restrictions eased this year, she was excited to welcome back her peers as their student ambassador, using her extensive knowledge and experience to mentor the first-time students on how to use the equipment and interact with the scientists and crew aboard the ship. “Compared to the other students, I’ve had so much more prior experience, and that’s definitely been helpful,” she says. “I’m excited to have some new responsibilities.”

This year, she is also a key member of the science party, mentoring the 19 undergraduate VISIONS’21 students on the intense logging operations and acquisition of 4K and digital still imagery in the  remotely operated vehicle Jason control van.

[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Eve_Katie_Newport_20180701_153908_L2_startSmall.jpg" link="#"]Katie Gonzalez (left) poses with Eve Hudson (right) on the VISIONS ’18 cruise. Katie is currently acting as student ambassador on the VISIONS ’21 cruise. Credit: University of Washington, V18.[/media-caption]

Katie first became interested in oceanography when she was attending high school in Clallam Bay, Washington. During one very memorable science class, Dr. Deb Kelley, an oceanography professor at UW and PI/Director for the RCA, came to show her class how to make environmental sensors, which they deployed in the school’s garden.

This experience inspired Katie to pursue a college degree in oceanography, and she decided to apply to UW to work with Professor Kelley. Since decisions for UW’s Seattle campus had already closed, she decided to attend the UW at Bothell and transferred to the Seattle campus the following year. In the meantime, she still wanted to work with Professor Kelley, so she commuted 45 minutes on public transportation to the main campus to work on OOI RCA projects in Professor Kelley’s lab.

Katie’s extensive experience working with OOI and doing research at sea motivated her to write her senior thesis using RCA data.

“I knew that whatever I was doing for my thesis, I wanted to use data from the RCA,” she recounts. As a biological oceanography student, she was most interested in biological happenings in the ocean to which she felt a personal bond. That’s when she heard about the RCA hydrophone data. The RCA hydrophones are used to listen for seismic events along the Juan de Fuca Ridge and Cascadia Margin, but they are also constantly bombarded with marine mammal calls, including whale vocalizations. “That was the connection I was looking for,” explains Katie. She decided to investigate fin whale calls at two different sites along the RCA by analyzing the timing and frequency of their calls. She chose to look at vocalizations from the Slope Base (~125 km from the Oregon coast) and the Axial Base (~475 km from the Oregon coast) sites because whales tend to congregate in areas of high bathymetric relief.

Fin whales are considered a vulnerable species because they have been heavily impacted by human activity.

“Looking into what the whales are doing, where they’re going, and how they’re interacting with their environment will be helpful in guiding the protection of these species,” says Katie.

Working with Dr. William Wilcock, a UW Oceanography professor and a seismologist who has been studying whale calls in the Northeast Pacific for several years, she fed five years of RCA hydrophone data into an algorithm that helped filter out data that matched the frequencies of fin whale calls. She then visualized the data as a spectrogram, which allowed her to make comparisons for frequency correlations.

“That was the moment when everything—the oceanography, the data science, and my human emotion for biological creatures—came together,” she recalls.

The preliminary results of this research showed that the whales appeared at the Slope Base site closer to the continental shelf two to three months earlier in their calling season, before moving out to the far off shore blue water environment of Axial Base. Both sites had their largest volume of calls in January.

Katie has several hypotheses about the seasonal patterns she observed. “They could be following their prey, or coastal upwelling could be providing them with more food closer to the shelf during those months. As for why both sites have peaks in January, that’s a question for further research.”

Her thesis detailing her research and its conclusions was published in the UW FieldNotes Journal.

Now that she has graduated, Katie hopes to continue with her research on whales. For now, she is happy to carry on working in the Kelley lab and helping out on the RCA VISIONS ’21 cruise. She will be writing two guest blog posts about her experience on the VISIONS ’21 cruise. Live updates for the VISIONS ’21 cruise can be found here.

[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/CTD_Katie_MIkeV-scaled.jpg" link="#"]Katie Gonzalez (right) and Mike Vardaro (left) work with the CTD rosette on the VISIONS ’18 cruise. Katie is a key member of the science party on the VISIONS ’21 cruise. Credit: University of Washington, V18.[/media-caption] Read More

Summer at Sea: Three Arrays Turned

This summer has been a busy time for OOI’s teams, who are actively engaged in ensuring that OOI’s arrays continue to provide data 24/7. Teams are turning – recovering and deploying – three arrays during July and August. The first expedition occurred earlier in July when a scientific and engineering team spent 16 days in the Northeast Pacific recovering and deploying ocean observing equipment at the Global Station Papa Array. The team recovered three subsurface moorings and deployed three new ones. They also deployed one open ocean glider, recovered one profiling glider, and conducted 11 CTD casts (which measure conductivity, temperature, and depth) to calibrate and validate the instruments on the array.  After completing this eighth turn of the Station Papa Array, the team returned to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution by way of Seward, Alaska on the second of August.


On 30 July, the Regional Cabled Array team embarked on the first of four legs of its 37-day Operations and Maintenance Cruise aboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson. The ship, operated by the University of Washington, is hosting the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason, operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). During the cruise, Jason will be used to deploy and recover a diverse array of more than 200 instruments from the active Pacific seafloor. The science, engineering, and ROV teams will be joined this year by 19 students sailing as part of the University of Washington’s educational mission (VISIONS’21). A live video feed of the ship’s operations and Jason dives is available for the duration of the cruises.

[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/r1472_elguapo.top_.web_-768x511-1.jpg" link="#"]The Regional Cabled Array team expects to share imagery as spectacular as this during its upcoming cruise. Shown here is the El Guapo hot spring, covered in life venting boiling fluids 4500 feet beneath the oceans surface. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/CSSF; V11.[/media-caption]

On 3 August, a team from WHOI boarded the R/V Armstrong for a weeklong transit to recover and deploy the Global Irminger Sea Array, off the Southeast coast of Greenland. The array is located in one of the most important ocean regions in the northern hemisphere and provides data for scientists to better understand ocean convection and circulation, which have significant climate implications.  A science and engineering team will be deploying and recovering a global surface mooring, a global hybrid profiler mooring, two global flanking moorings, and three gliders (two open ocean and one profiling) during the three-week expedition. The team will also carry out shipboard sampling and CTD casts to support the calibration and validation of platform sensors while underway.  A novel aspect of this cruise is that near real-time CTD profiles will be made publicly available during the cruise. The profiles will be evaluated by onshore staff, who will provide feedback to the ship, and share online assessment of CTD results.

“This summer’s at-sea activities are the culmination of months of planning, testing, and logistical work that goes on behind the scenes to make these expeditions possible,” said John Trowbridge, OOI’s Principal Investigator and head of the Program Management Office. “A tremendous amount of human effort and ingenuity is required to keep the arrays operational year-round, particularly in some of the ocean’s most challenging environments like the Irminger Sea and on the seafloor at Axial Seamount. The data collected, however, are essential, providing scientists with the tools needed to understand our changing ocean.”

The progress of the expeditions will be reported on these pages and on OOI’s social media channels.

[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Irminger-Surface-mooring-.jpg" link="#"]A global surface mooring in the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution stage area is outfitted and ready for deployment in the Irminger Sea Array. Photo: ©Jade Lin, WHOI[/media-caption]



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Seismic Hazards Around the Globe: A visualization tool to bring RCA data into the classroom

[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/RCA-globe.png." link="#"]A snapshot view of seismic events centered on the Ring of Fire showing the 2011 Tahoku magnitude 9.1 earthquake. The history of quakes, until this time, is indicated by the color-coded dots that indicate location and magnitude. Source: Deb Kelley and the Center for Environmental Visualization, University of Washington[/media-caption]

As part of the continuing University of Washington engagement effort, and in preparation for the new National Science Foundation K12 education award focused on bringing OOI data into the classroom, Kelley collaborated with the Center for Environmental Visualization within the School of Oceanography to generate an earthquake exploration tool focused on seismic events within the global oceans from 1970 to present.  We anticipate that one of the curriculum modules developed for the K12 program will be focused on geohazards, with an emphasis on the Cascadia Subduction Zone within the context of the “ring of fire.”   A video of this animation is hosted on interactive oceans and a direct link to the developmental site is provided above.  The animation will be used in a Queens College physical geology class this next year that has 150 students (Dr. Dax Soule).  This effort is also in preparation for completing a similar visualization focused on Axial Seamount and Regional Cabled Array seismic data.

The data sets used for this effort include a map centered on the Pacific Ocean that shows the distribution of earthquakes of magnitude ≥6 in the U.S. Geological Survey catalog from 1970 through 2021.  The topographic dataset is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-4.0.  The data were formatted to match the JSON format recommended for use of global visualization using the ‘Cesium’ interactive virtual earth viewer promoted within its 3D geospatial visualization for the web toolset.  The Cesium JavaScript API was utilized to implement algorithms for procedural color determination based on magnitude and hypocenter point radius animation based on the date-time of the earthquake event.  The resultant animation is highly interactive, allowing the user to choose a 3D global view or a flat view, and viewing speeds of 1-8 times.  In addition, the field of view can be changed to move to a specific area of interest and includes zoom capabilities.  A sliding time bar allows the user to focus in on particular items of interest.


















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