Magazine article Oceanus

WHOI to Lead Initiative to Build Networks of Ocean Observatories

Magazine article Oceanus

WHOI to Lead Initiative to Build Networks of Ocean Observatories

Article excerpt

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) was awarded a $97.7 million grant to help build a decades-long dream of ocean scientists: networks of ocean observatories that can monitor conditions in critical coastal and remote open-ocean locations and provide a continuous flow of data in near-real time to scientists and marine resource managers onshore.

The grant helps launch the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), a $300 million project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build, implement, and operate coordinated systems of moored buoys, undersea cabled networks, and autonomous underwater vehicles--all instrumented to collect data on the inner workings of ocean currents, ocean ecosystems, seafloor processes, and air-sea interactions that influence weather and climate.

The OOI includes observatory systems to study coastal ocean regions; a global ocean network; a cabled regional observatory extending off the Pacific Northwest coast; and a cyber-infrastructure component to collect and disseminate data.

"When these systems are operational, we'll be able to build a picture of ocean interactions that we've never had before," said Bob Weller, principal investigator of the coastal and global components of the OOI, which WHOI will lead.

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"Scientists will have the flexibility to remotely control their instruments in response to events in the ocean and instantly receive the data," he said. "This view of the ocean will be accessible not only to scientists, but to policymakers, educators, students, or anyone curious about the ocean."

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Funds for the project will be dispersed through WHOI to collaborators: Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and Oregon State University's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. NSF is now supporting design and preparations in advance of construction, now planned for mid-2010, pending reviews and the availability of federal funds in the 2010 budget.

The award was announced Aug. 23, 2007, by the Joint Oceanographic Institutions division of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the organization managing the observatory initiative for NSF. Construction for the OOI will be matched by an additional $10 million from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' John Adams Innovation Institute, a program of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

"It's impossible to overestimate the value of this project to the future of oceanography," said then WHOI President and Director Jim Luyten. "By capitalizing on and pushing advances in technology, the OOI will revolutionize the way we observe and understand the ocean."

"Technology and access have always been the limitation to fully observing and understanding the oceans and the life they support," Luyten told an audience at a press conference on WHOI's Dyers Dock, which featured Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and U.S. Rep. William Delahunt. "But this initiative puts researchers on the threshold of changing that, overcoming the limitations of ship-based work and the challenge of sampling in both space and time."

The global component includes the design and installation of several buoys, distributed in remote high-latitude locations in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres where critical ocean- and climate-related phenomena take place. The moorings will be outfitted with instruments to take measurements from the sea surface and through the ocean depths. The buoys will transmit data via satellite and power themselves using solar and wind generators. …

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