Move your cursor over and click on the objects in the diagram below to learn what oceanographers have in their toolbox. (Illustration: Studio 208)
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Technology extends our vision. We’ve always known that the ocean is a dynamic environment, but satellite-borne sensors, sonar, time-lapse video, moored buoys and autonomous gliders are revealing new details: fish, squid and whales in unexpected places; rumblings that foretell the creation of the seafloor; wind-driven surface currents; nitrogen-fixing microbes; circulating rings of water; shifting concentrations of chlorophyll that may signal plankton blooms.
Scientists have far more devices in their toolbox than when OSU oceanographer Wayne Burt performed his initial measurements in Yaquina Bay more than 50 years ago. New technologies detect physical and chemical patterns that set the stage for ocean life, most of which is invisible to our eyes. Small-scale eddies spin off the south-running California Current. Upwelling water drives plankton blooms.
Today, OSU partners with the University of Washington, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the University of California San Diego to lead development of a new ocean observing system that will be deployed off the Northwest coast. Meanwhile, OSU emeritus professor Tim Cowles leads development of a global ocean observing network known as the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), funded by the National Science Foundation.
See a March 23, 2011 story about deployment of new Ocean Observatories Initiative buoys off Newport, Ore. and Grays Harbor, Wash.
And see images (such as lower Chesapeake Bay, mouth of the Columbia River, the Han River) taken by the new Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO). Read an OSU news release (March 24, 2011) about the latest HICO images.