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Ocean Research


May 2016 Issue

Zooplankton Observations
In Pangnirtung Fiord

Sarah Fortune, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia and guest student at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in collaboration with Dr. Steve Ferguson from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and University of Manitoba and LGL Ltd. and VDOS Global LLC, conducted several days of zooplankton backscatter observations in Pangnirtung Fiord with colocated Optical Plankton Counter data.

The four-frequency (125, 200, 455 and 769 kHz) AZFP with cage and floatation from ASL’s lease pool was shipped to rendezvous with the Arctic equipment.

The collected data demonstrate the potential to record rapid and fine-scale zooplankton data in a way Fortune couldn’t before. She anticipates conducting field research this summer in Cumberland Sound to study bowhead whales’ feeding behavior. Read more.

Better Fisheries Management
Could Double Populations

With improved fishing approaches, the majority of the world’s wild fisheries could be at healthy levels in just 10 years and global fish populations could double by 2050, according to a study by researchers from UC Santa Barbara, the University of Washington and the Environmental Defense Fund.

By 2050, applying the same improved fishing approaches could increase profits from the world’s ocean fisheries by 204 percent—enough to provide a significant source of protein for an additional 500 million people.

If reforms were implemented today, three-quarters of exploited fisheries worldwide could attain population goals within 10 years—and 98 percent by midcentury.

The team used a massive database of 4,713 fisheries representing 78 percent of the ocean’s catch.

At ICEX 2016

The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) tested a Geo-Referencing Identification Satellite (GRIDSAT) tag project at the U.S. Navy’s Ice Camp Sargo, a temporary station on top of a floating ice sheet in the Arctic as part of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2016, a five-week exercise to assess the operational readiness of the U.S. Navy’s submarine force and advance scientific research in the Arctic.

The deployment and communication of the system were tested, and several marking devices were left on the ice floe for long-term duration studies. Deployment was done by helicopter aerial drop of two GRIDSAT tags with floe spikes and by manually inserting one GRIDSAT tag using an ice screw technique. If an oil spill were to occur in the Arctic, both deployment methods would be utilized to tag and track spilled oil trapped under or encapsulated in Arctic sea ice.

The GRIDSAT radio/GPS marking device can be left on an ice floe to track the movement of the floe and entrapped oil up to nine months.

Jason ROV Upgraded
To Handle More Activity

The $2.4 million upgrade to the Jason ROV, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), was a 12-month-long project conducted by engineers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), which designed and built the vehicle, that increased the vehicle payload and range of activities and streamlined vehicle operation. The ROV is part of the National Deep Submergence Facility.

This upgrade increased the system’s lift capability from 400 lb. to 2 tons of scientific samples and instruments from the seafloor and eliminated its companion vehicle, Medea, for these operations.

During a Jason mission, the ROV pilot, navigator and engineer operate the vehicle from a control van on the ship’s deck while Jason sends HD video in real time from the seafloor through its cable tether. Scientists in the control van observe and direct biological and geological sampling.

The upgrade enables Jason to perform maintenance to seafloor infrastructure related to the NSF-funded Ocean Observatories Initiative and Ocean Networks Canada’s cabled observatories efficiently and with reduced need for deck space.

The upgrade comprises: new bigger and stronger cable tether with break strength of 70,000 lb.; a modified AHC winch to accommodate the new cable; a new launch and recovery system to accommodate the increased payload rated to 15,000 lb.; a new vehicle frame capable of withstanding the increased loads; a new swappable heavy-lift tool skid that will be used for these lift operations; new science tool skid with increased space and payload for scientific equipment; and additional flotation to accommodate the increase in weight of the new frame.

Ocean Circulation in Other
Planets Could Affect Life

The salt levels of oceans on distant Earth-like planets could have a major effect on their climates, according to new research from the Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of East Anglia, which reveals that the circulation in extremely salty or fresh water extraterrestrial seas would influence their temperatures—and could make for more habitable conditions for alien life.

Computer models of ocean circulation on exoplanets were used to see what would happen when their oceans had different salinity levels than Earth. They considered oceans with very low salinity (similar to fresh water), salinity similar to the average value of Earth’s oceans, and high salinity (similar levels to the Dead Sea).

Earth circulation involves warm water moving toward the poles at the surface, before being cooled, then sinking at high latitudes and traveling toward the equator at depth. The new research shows that oceans on other planets with a much higher salinity could circulate in the opposite direction, with polar water flowing toward the equator at the surface, sinking in the tropics and traveling back toward the poles at depth. There is a similar pattern emerging for fresh water oceans.

These circulation patterns would result in a dramatic warming in the polar regions, which might extend a planet’s range of habitability.


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