|An NSF grant will create a new program to train science support
technicians aboard U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking research vessels such as
Healy, shown here in the Arctic Ocean north of the Chukchi Sea and
Alaska in July 2011.
Under the NSF grant, Scripps and OSU will collaborate to create a new
program to supply trained technical experts aboard United States Coast
Guard icebreaking research vessels.
The value of polar research has gained significance in recent years as rising temperatures and melting ice continue to change the environment at the poles, with implications for global climate. Research aboard the USCG ships Healy, Polar Sea and Polar Star is necessarily broad because so few vessels are able to work in polar waters and serve research projects that span climate change, marine fisheries and ecosystems, marine mammal research, physical oceanography, chemistry and other areas.
The new grant will fund technicians from Scripps' Shipboard Technical
Support department and OSU's Marine Technician Group to serve as the
research backbone aboard polar research vessels. These groups coordinate
the complex scientific operations of dozens of individual research
scientists who collaborate aboard the ships during hectic summer field
programs and are responsible for the safe and accurate operation of
myriad shipboard instruments. Often unheralded, these technical experts
are trained to use a broad array of scientific equipment and serve as
liaisons between the scientists and the ship's crew to insure that
costly investments in polar research pay off with the largest amount of
accurate data possible.
Research marine technicians oversee operation of various oceanographic
instruments and equipment at sea, including conductivity, temperature
and depth (CTD) instruments, which collect samples of sea water at
various depths for laboratory analysis; multibeam swath sonar and
echosounders for seafloor mapping; and seafloor coring instruments used
to analyze long-term changes in the ocean.
|A conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) seawater sampling instrument is deployed off Healy in July 2011.|
For San Diego's economy, the new award carries $1.37 million over three
years to Scripps. In addition to the creation of a new technical manager
position, the grant provides fresh support for high-value technical
jobs that exist at Scripps, and will result in additional San Diego-area
spending with the reorganization of the program's logistical support
here from the east coast.
Scripps' STS group has been involved with Healy even before the vessel was launched in 1999. STS technicians were contracted by USCG to consult on the vessel's scientific systems during its design and construction and have provided marine research technical support since then.
"This program builds on Scripps' heritage of exporting technical
expertise throughout the U.S. academic research fleet, so that the
methods for improving efficiency and accuracy that we develop at Scripps
can benefit the broader oceanographic community," said Bruce Appelgate,
associate director for Ship Operations and Marine Technical Support at
Scripps. "Now more than ever, global policymakers are looking to
scientists for accurate information about our polar environments. By
partnering with the outstanding team at Oregon State, we strengthen our
ability to insure that scientific observations performed in the Arctic
Ocean will be of the highest possible quality."
The grant also represents a model for improving the quality of scientific support within current federal science budgets, which have tightened in recent years. Marine technicians have typically worked aboard their own institutional research vessels. The new program combines the existing strengths of two leading oceanographic institutions to support polar research aboard USCG vessels as well, enabling instant, cost-effective access to experienced technicians.
"By working early on and directly with the scientists who will sail on
the U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers, marine research technicians' cruise
support can be focused closely on the science goals of the expedition,"
said Jim Swift, a research oceanographer at Scripps. "This will provide
strong science support services on the icebreakers while being efficient
and cost effective. Scripps also has a long history of working with the
Arctic Icebreaker Coordinating Committee-the scientific oversight body
for science on U.S. Arctic icebreakers-and this has provided insight on
fruitful approaches we can take regarding at-sea science support."
Beyond science support, students participate on many Arctic research
cruises and marine technicians often demonstrate, educate, and train
students in the use of technology at sea.
"Most of our technicians have worked off Alaska, in the Bering Sea, and other extreme environments," said Daryl Swensen, superintendent of OSU's Marine Technician Group, "so it should be familiar in many ways. But it will be exciting to be a part of this polar research program."
Scripps and OSU are each strongly committed to improving the scientific
capabilities of all the vessels in the U.S. academic research fleet.
Both groups work closely with partners within the University-National
Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), an organization of 61 U.S.
academic institutions and national laboratories that collaborate on
resources that support oceanographic research. There are currently 21
ships in the U.S. research fleet operated by institutions around the
country. Oregon State operates R/V Wecoma, while Scripps operates R/Vs Roger Revelle, Melville, New Horizon and Robert Gordon Sproul. Scripps also operates the research platform FLIP.
Last year, the U.S. Office of Naval Research selected Scripps as the
operator of a new Ocean Class scientific research vessel, which is
currently being designed with input from Scripps oceanographers. The
U.S. Navy is providing more than $88 million to construct the vessel,
which is anticipated to be ready for Scripps to operate by 2015.
About Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today in 65 countries. The institution has a staff of about 1,400 and annual expenditures of approximately $170 million from federal, state and private sources. Scripps operates robotic networks, and one of the largest U.S. academic fleets with four oceanographic research ships and one research platform for worldwide exploration. Birch Aquarium at Scripps serves as the interpretive center of the institution and showcases Scripps research and a diverse array of marine life through exhibits and programming for more than 415,000 visitors each year. Learn more at scripps.ucsd.edu.