Ocean Research

FEB | JUNE

 

JUNE


Microplastics Discovered
In Bottled Water

Microplastics can be found in bottled water from around the world, according to a major new study using methodology developed by researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA). The investigation found that most of the 259 bottles of water tested were contaminated with microplastics.

This study analyzed more than 250 bottles from 27 lots and 11 different brands from around the world, and almost all were contaminated to some degree.

Microplastics come from a variety of sources including cosmetics, clothing, industrial processes, packaging materials and degradation of larger plastic items. They are found in the environment at high levels, particularly in aquatic and marine ecosystems. Because plastics do not break down for many years, they can be ingested and accumulated in the bodies and tissues of many organisms. The entire cycle, movement and lifetime of microplastics in the environment is not yet known.

 

Whales Are Social Creatures Like Humans

Groundbreaking research from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute is the first to demonstrate that, just like human societies, beluga whales appear to value culture as well as their ancestral roots and family ties.

Through a detailed genetic study of kinship published in PLOS One, an international team of collaborators has demonstrated that related whales returned to the same locations year after year, and even generation after generation. This involves some form of social learning from members of the same species, most likely from mother to calf.

Findings from this study pin down the fundamental structure of the building blocks of beluga whale society and provide compelling evidence that migratory culture is inherited. The study expands the understanding of how sophisticated nonprimate societies can be and how important culture is for the survival of these species and how they are going to adapt to dramatic environmental changes.

 

Atlantic Ocean Circulation at
Weakest Point in 1,600 Years

New research led by University College London (UCL) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) provides evidence that a key cog in the global ocean circulation system hasn’t been running at peak strength since the mid-1800s and is currently at its weakest point in the past 1,600 years. If the system continues to weaken, it could disrupt weather patterns from the U.S. and Europe to the African Sahel and cause more rapid increase in sea level on the U.S. East Coast.

When it comes to regulating global climate, the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean plays a key role. The constantly moving system of deepwater circulation, sometimes referred to as the Global Ocean Conveyor Belt, sends warm, salty Gulf Stream water to the North Atlantic where it releases heat to the atmosphere and warms Western Europe. The cooler water then sinks to great depths and travels all the way to Antarctica and eventually circulates back up to the Gulf Stream.

This study provides the first comprehensive analysis of ocean-based sediment records, demonstrating that this weakening of the Atlantic’s overturning began near the end of the Little Ice Age, a centuries-long cold period that lasted until about 1850.

 

First Carbon Budget
For US East Coast

Coastal waters play an important role in the carbon cycle by transferring carbon to the open ocean or burying it in wetland soils and ocean sediments, a new study shows. The research helps establish how coastal processes influence atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and, in turn, climate.

The study team, which includes Virginia Institute of Marine Science researchers, constructed the first known carbon budget for the U.S. East Coast. They tracked the flows of organic and inorganic carbon into and out of coastal waters from the southern tip of Nova Scotia, Canada, to the southern tip of Florida.

About 20 percent of the carbon entering coastal waters from rivers and the atmosphere is buried, while 80 percent flows out to the open ocean.

Efforts like this help fill gaps in knowledge and inspire further research to help refine carbon budgets for the region. Carbon burial is an important metric when it comes to predicting future atmospheric CO2 levels because, once carbon is in the sediments, it has the potential to remain there and not contribute to the greenhouse effect. However, as sea level continues to rise and disturb the coasts, some of the buried carbon could be respired and released to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide.

 

Flow Analyzer to Study
Eastern Mediterranean

Researchers at Haifa University’s Marine Biological Station in Israel are exploiting the ultralow detection limits of advanced laboratory equipment to measure extremely low nutrient concentrations in marine water. The Eastern Mediterranean has the lowest regional concentration of dissolved nutrients in the global ocean. The researchers use SEAL Analytical’s AutoAnalyzer 3 (AA3), a four-channel system measuring phosphate with a long flow cell that has a detection limit of 2 nM. Ammonia is measured using a JASCO fluorometer with a similar ultralow detection limit, and silicate, which has a higher concentration, is measured using SEAL’s high-resolution colorimetric technology.

The measurement data are being used to determine the season nutrient cycling in the system, which will help understand the nature of the food web and the effects of global environmental and climate change.
 

FEBRUARY


CFD Methodology for Slim
Vessel Regulation Testing

For the past two years, Damen has been working on a CFD-based research project called “Gone With The Wind” (GWTW) to study the capability of CFD to accurately model the aerodynamic forces that act upon vessels above the waterline. The specific issue being addressed has been the challenge of meeting the requirements of the IMO regulation 749.18. Its objective is to ensure that vessels have sufficient transversal stability to resist over-rolling in severe side winds. It is difficult for long, slender vessels to satisfy the empirical requirements of the rule without undertaking extensive and costly experimentation.

This has a direct impact on the time needed and the cost of gaining certification for vessels such as Damen’s monohull fast crew suppliers (FCS) and their variants. Typically, data have to be gathered from physical assessments using scale models in towing tanks and wind tunnels. The objective of GWTW has been to develop a CFD methodology to replace the physical assessments for vessels such as Damen’s FCS range that will demonstrate compliance to the satisfaction of the classification societies.

Damen has been developing the CFD methodology in partnership with Numeca while conducting the physical tests needed to validate and verify the CFD calculations, using a 1:18 scale model of Damen’s FCS 3307. Work is now underway to adapt this methodology to full-scale prediction.

 

SeaBat Sonar for Greenland
Seabed, Marine Mapping

The Greenland Climate Research Centre will take delivery of a Teledyne RESON SeaBat T50-R Extended Range high-resolution multibeam sonar early 2018. The sonar will be hull mounted on RV Sanna, a research vessel operating on the west Greenland coast. Researchers will utilize the sonar to map seabed topography and marine habitats in the 200- to 800-m deep waters of the Greenland Shelf.

 

Citizen Science Aids
Global Shark Research

Vital scientific information about whale shark behavior, biology and ecology is being uncovered by ecotourists and other citizens.

Whale shark habitat spans the globe, making long-term research over wide geographic ranges a challenge for whale shark researchers. Researchers have harnessed modern technology to create an online photo database called “Wildbook for Whale Sharks” and enlisted the help of ecotourists and citizens across the globe to upload any images of whale sharks they happened to see anywhere in the world. Photos of nearly 30,000 encounters representing 6,000 individually identified sharks across 54 countries over 22 years has given scientists a rich data set to analyze and better understand the nature of this endangered species.

Through this effort, researchers have now identified 20 whale shark aggregation sites globally.

 

ROV Video Informs
Deep-Sea Food Web Study

MBARI researchers have done the first comprehensive study of deep-sea food webs using hundreds of video observations of animals feeding off the central California coast. The study shows that deep-sea jellies are key predators and provides new information on life near the ocean surface.

Since the late 1980s, MBARI researchers have used ROVs to study deep-sea animals in their own environment. In the process, MBARI has amassed more than 23,000 hours of deep-sea video footage.

In this new approach, they used deep-diving vehicles to observe animals feeding on one another in the deep sea. Technicians in the MBARI Video Lab painstakingly analyzed every deep ROV dive, identifying animals and their behaviors and entering this information into the Video Annotation and Reference System (VARS) database. Combing through the VARS database, researchers discovered almost 750 different video observations of animals eating one another.

The video footage shows that jelly food webs encompass animals that live near the surface. Gelatinous animals have been found in the stomachs of animals ranging from penguins and albatrosses to sunfish and leatherback sea turtles.

 

AI for Eco-Friendly
Ship Tech

Eco Marine Power (EMP) will begin using the Neural Network Console provided by Sony Network Communications Inc. as part of a strategy to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into various ongoing ship-related technology projects, including the further development of the Aquarius MRE renewable energy power system and EnergySail.

The Neural Network Console uses deep learning for AI creation and has been used in deep-learning applied technology development within Sony since 2015. Various functions include recognition technology and a full-fledged graphical user interface. Deep learning refers to a form of machine learning that uses neural networks modeled after the human brain.

An initial area of focus will be studying how the Neural Network Console and AI can assist with the development of the automated control system for EMP’s EnergySail. This system automatically adjusts the position of the EnergySail depending on variables such as wind speed and direction. AI will also help analyze the results of computer simulations related to the Aquarius Eco Ship.