Project Description: Development of Low-cost Instrumentation to Support Student Marine Ecology Projects

Summary

Senior undergraduate students enrolled in MSCI 437 (Ocean Instrumentation Projects) design, build, and test innovative, low-cost, seafloor instrumentation, which they and their peers can use to collect data for marine research projects. For two consecutive years, a CSU Faculty Support Grant has provided funds to purchase parts and materials for these student inventions. The Spring 2016 class improved upon the previous year’s design of “SquidPod,” a time-lapse underwater camera system that can be left on the seafloor for weeks at a time to record factors affecting the survival of Market Squid egg clusters. Any surface marker buoy attached to SquidPod would invite theft, so the students also invented “RoboBuoy.” When it’s time to retrieve SquidPod, the students toss RoboBuoy in the water. It uses GPS navigation to swim to a point directly above SquidPod, then maintains position against winds and currents. By serving as a stationary visual landmark on the ocean surface, RoboBuoy makes it easier for students to keep a small boat positioned directly over the seafloor instrumentation while they use divers (shallow water) or a ROV (deep water) to retrieve SquidPod.

Student Involvement

In 2015-16, 12 undergraduates were enrolled in the Ocean Instrumentation Class and participated directly in the design, construction, testing, and/or deployment of RoboBuoy and the improved SquidPod. Ten of those students extended that work to investigate changes in sand dollar beds over time and presented that research for their Senior Capstone project. AMWS student Michael Hang used SquidPod and RoboBuoy to collect data for his master’s thesis project. In addition, several students certified as AAUS scientific divers improved their research diving skills by helping the class deploy and retrieve SquidPod.

Broader Significance

A large fraction of California’s commercial and recreational fishing is concentrated on or over the continental shelf at “twilight zone” depths between about 20 m and 200 m (65 to 650 feet). This depth range is characterized by significant variations in temperature, light intensity, water motion, dissolved oxygen, and pH, so it is fertile ground for marine ecology research projects – both basic and applied – aimed at understanding how these factors influence the biodiversity and productivity of California’s coastal waters. These depths are inaccessible to most scuba divers, so other methods must be used to observe and study them. Although oceanographic research vessels have the equipment necessary to collect these data, ship time on these vessels is generally beyond the budget available for routine undergraduate research. SquidPod and RoboBuoy represent the latest additions to IfAME’s growing suite of low-cost, but capable, student-designed tools – including small ROVs, towed cameras, and datalogging flow sensors – that are specifically designed to be deployed by students working from small boats (e.g., Zodiac inflatables or even sea kayaks) in areas where twilight zone depths are accessible near shore. Thus, they enable a much larger number of undergraduate students to contribute to meaningful marine ecology research. In addition to gaining experience with marine research, students who participate in creation of these instruments develop valuable skills in electronics, computer programming, and robotics.

IfAME PI

Dr. Steve Moore

Financial Support

CSU Faculty Support Grant

Field Support

N/A

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla convallis egestas rhoncus. Donec facilisis fermentum sem, ac viverra ante luctus vel. Donec vel mauris quam. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla convallis egestas rhoncus. Donec facilisis fermentum sem, ac viverra ante luctus vel. Donec vel mauris quam. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla convallis egestas rhoncus. Donec facilisis fermentum sem, ac viverra ante luctus vel. Donec vel mauris quam. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla convallis egestas rhoncus. Donec facilisis fermentum sem, ac viverra ante luctus vel. Donec vel mauris quam. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

Donate Now