Ocean Observation Looks Pretty Cool to an Outsider

April 19, 2019

We all have things that turn us into a kid in a candy store, don’t we? Times when we let our inner fan-boys and fan-girls out? What’s yours?  For me, it’s anything exploration. Distant lands…research expeditions…space exploration…or the ocean depths.

So, when I was invited, my first day on the job, with the rest of the Marine Technology Society staff to visit Rutgers University Center for Ocean Observing Leadership (RU COOL), I was all in.

With Board members Rick Spinrad, Donna Kocak, Zdenka Willis, and Liesl Hotaling, the MTS staff set off to learn more about the work being done in ocean observing and talk with students and faculty about how MTS can be a partner in their academic development.

Scott Glenn, Distinguished Professor and Co-Director of RU COOL, and team, first showed us their high-tech command center where they track gliders and monitor and map the oceans. It provided a great visual of the intersection of the oceans and modern technology.

I was impressed with the 15-20 Federal and State agencies they work with on various research and data collecting projects. It really put into perspective the interplay that ocean data has on everything from weather to inland agriculture.

Checking out a map on the wall, we saw the path of the first unmanned, trans-Atlantic glider mission to collect data on ocean temperature, salinity, and density. Called the Scarlet Knight Mission, glider RU27 traveled a total of 7,409.6 kilometers (4,604 miles) over 221 days, reaching Baiona, Spain, on December 9, 2009.

Now the team is working on an international mission, called the Challenger Mission – named after the HMS Challenger – the survey vessel that carried the Challenger expedition from 1872 to 1876, that was the foundation of modern-day oceanography.

Just like my love affair with the spunky Mars Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity), I’m now rooting for the Challenger Glider (RU29), that is working on circumnavigating the globe and mapping the world’s oceans.

The students and faculty didn’t let us get away without getting our hands wet. After looking at ocean gliders in the lab, the students put us to work learning how to ballast a glider in the water.  RU28 to be exact. Our glider is scheduled for a 30-day deployment around the end of April for use by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. It will fly a zigzag pattern from Sandy Hook to Cape May, staying within about 25 miles of the coastline, and it will likely be deployed two more times this fall.

We wrapped up the day by sitting down with students to learn more about the research projects they are working on, and that’s when my fan-girl turned to outright jealousy. These Rutgers undergrads are regularly doing research all over the world ― even in Mongolia — and apparently, research seasons in Antarctica are no big deal. Seriously? Is it too late for me to go back to school?

RU COOL students in the glider lab wearing their MTS hats.

Learn more about the Challenger Glider Mission – https://challenger.marine.rutgers.edu/

Author – Lisa Stryker, Communications Specialist at the Marine Technology Society

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