THE RESEARCH VESSELS of Scripps Institution of Oceanography
(SIO) at UC San Diego have logged hundreds of thousands of
nautical miles—over undersea volcanoes and through monstrous
waves—seeking answers to some of the planet’s most daunting
environmental challenges. Yet with a new agreement, that mission
now comes aboard the deck of pleasure craft the world over.
Scripps has recently collaborated with the International SeaKeepers Society, a yachting organization devoted to promoting
oceanographic research, to leverage the might of citizen scientists
in support of research projects at sea. When a need arises
from a Scripps scientist, engineer or student, SeaKeepers will
tap into its database of yachting vessel owners willing to offer
their ships and provide a new opportunity to collect samples,
deploy instruments and otherwise further their science.
“This agreement provides a way for citizens to participate in
scientific research in a meaningful way,” says Bruce Appelgate,
associate director of SIO and head of Ship Operations and Marine
Technical Support. “Scientists and nonscientists alike can share
the experience of understanding and protecting the planet.”
The collaboration with SeaKeepers, realized with help from
Scripps supporter Patty Elkus and others, is a throwback to SIO’s
earliest days when scientists made full use of the public’s interest
to aid the young institution’s fledgling scientific endeavors. “More
than one hundred years ago, Scripps’ first expeditions used private
vessels operated for, or loaned to, the institution by its co-founder
E. W. Scripps and his colleagues,” says Kevin Hardy, a retired
engineer at Scripps and expert in its history of exploration.
Hardy’s engineering work is currently being used in the program.
Scripps graduate student Natalya Gallo, M.S. ’ 14, is currently using
miniature versions of Hardy’s deep sea instruments to study how
fish are responding to the declining subsurface oxygen levels
off California, known to have dropped some 20-30 percent
over the last 25 years.
In 2012, Hardy developed 14-foot-tall deep-sea “lander” science
instruments as part of ocean explorer and filmmaker James
Cameron’s record-breaking dives to the deepest points on Earth.
To help Gallo’s current research, he developed a five-foot version
dubbed the “nanolander” that is capable of being hand-launched
off yachting vessels.
When San Diego Yacht Club’s Rodney Moll learned of Gallo’s
research and Hardy’s new five-foot-tall nanolander, he volunteered
to take them to sea aboard his vessel, Niyama. This spring, Moll’s
ship will deploy a nanolander equipped with Gallo’s oxygen sensor
package and camera system in the Scripps Coastal Reserve off
La Jolla. Months later, the instruments will be filled with new data
and recalled to the surface via an acoustic signal.
“Regular access to sea makes this research possible, but the
partnership with SeaKeepers is also a unique opportunity for
scientists to engage with the geater community,”says Gallo,
a Michael M. Mullin Fellow at Scripps. “By partnering yacht
owners with young scientists, we can both advance scientific
efforts and actively engage interested members of the public
in the scientific process.”
Crowdsourcing hits the high seas to support research.
PROTECTING THE PLANET
BY MARIO AGUILERA, WARREN ’89
“Scientists and nonscientists alike can
share the experience of understanding
and protecting the planet.”
— Bruce Appelgate, Associate Director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography