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Ocean Research


May 2014 Issue

First Exosuit Expedition in July to Study Bioluminescence
The first scientific expedition utilizing the Exosuit (Sea Technology, December 2013) will take place this summer in Rhode Island waters. The Exosuit is the next-generation atmospheric diving system designed and constructed by Nuytco Research Ltd. in North Vancouver, Canada. The Exosuit keeps the pilot at surface pressure, eliminating the physiological hazards associated with deep diving. The first production system was purchased and accepted by the J.F. White Contracting Co., a civil engineering firm in Framingham, Massachusetts.

The expedition will take place in July about 100 miles off of Rhode Island at a location called 'the Canyons,' which mark a drop from the continental shelf margins to depths of more than 10,000 feet. The Exosuit will allow the science and exploration team to personally study up to 1,000 feet in the mesopelagic zone, an area rich in novel, alien biodiversity, especially creatures that migrate from the abyss to shallower waters at night, many of which are expected to reveal unique displays of bioluminescence.

The expedition will study bioluminescent proteins from marine organisms to better understand mapping and signaling in the brain to improve our understanding of how the brain communicates via its network of neurons.

The team expects to discover, image and collect bioluminescent organisms from which RNA/DNA will be extracted for future isolation of novel bioluminescence systems. Such novel systems will likely be valuable for use in biomedical research.

The exploration dives will be assisted by a National Science Foundation-funded custom ROV outfitted specifically for imaging these creatures in their natural habitat.

Previously, these organisms have only been studied after coming up in trawl nets or via remote means. This marks the first study of the mesopelagic habitat off of New England using the complementary approach of robotics and humans via atmospheric diving systems.

BOEM to Fund Restoration Projects Post-Sandy
BOEM has announced a $5 million procurement opportunity to collect data offshore from Maine to Miami, Florida, to identify sand resources for use in future coastal restoration projects. Proposals are due on or before May 21, 2014. The objective is to acquire geophysical and geological data to support identification, characterization and delineation of Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) sand resources for use by coastal states in future coastal restoration, beach nourishment, and/or wetland restoration efforts.

The selected contractor will coordinate with Atlantic coastal states to determine areas for offshore investigation that contain potential sand resources, and perform geophysical surveys and geological sampling. BOEM will distribute the data widely among coastal stakeholders. This effort is funded using part of the $13.6 million allocated to BOEM through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.

Odyssey Will Use MacArtney Winch to Explore Seafloor
Odyssey Marine Exploration (Tampa, Florida) has recently procured a powerful MacArtney (Esbjerg, Denmark) MERMAC R50 AHC (Active Heave Compensation) winch for use on board the RV Dorado Discovery. In partnership with St. Vincent Bay Exploration (SVBE) based out of Moss Landing, California, Odyssey will use the winch to deploy various seafloor exploration systems and equipment in the Pacific Ocean. The active heave compensation of the winch allows precise landing of the drill on the seafloor.

Use of Hydrodynamic Modeling to Study Atlantic Salmon
Scotland set a goal of producing all its electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020. This will involve marine renewables—offshore wind, wave and tidal power. Since these technologies are still under development, the potential environmental implications of their deployment are unclear.

Atlantic salmon have significant conservation and socioeconomic importance in Scottish waters. Improving understanding of the biology and migratory behavior of these fish is particularly important because of apparent long-term population declines and the possibility that migrating salmon may pass through, or close to, marine renewable energy development sites.

The Crown Estate released a report assessing the likelihood that salmon originating from Scottish rivers will pass close enough to an installation to experience potential effects from renewable technologies (i.e., noise, electromagnetic emissions or physical interaction with devices). The report does not attempt to consider the nature or consequences of these effects.

The report assesses whether particle tracking models (PTMs) represent a viable means of providing estimates of the potential for interactions between salmon and renewable energy developments. It concludes that hydrodynamic models have several advantages for estimating likelihood of passage through array locations, particularly in the case of the Pentland Firth.

These advantages are: hydrodynamic models may already be available; in the absence of empirical data, modeling would allow exploration of the effects of different behaviors and tidal or meteorological conditions on encounter rate; modeling may allow hydrodynamic changes resulting from turbine operation to be predicted; and the approach has potential to generate hypotheses for testing in the field.

To facilitate the development of suitable particle tracking models, the report suggests implementation of a high-resolution PTM for the Pentland Firth, implementation of a larger-scale PTM covering near coastal areas of the North Sea and the North Atlantic to simulate outward migration of post-smolts and return migration of adult salmon through Scottish coastal waters, and collection of empirical data to support modeling activities.

The report finds that it is possible to use hydrodynamic models to produce information on the probability of migrating salmonids passing through specific development sites, estimates of the relative number of potential encounters with arrays positioned in a variety of locations, and estimates of cumulative encounter rates where there are multiple arrays.


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