Ocean-Climate Links Central to $97.7 Million Research Contract

WASHINGTON, DC, August 23, 2007 (ENS) - "No longer will ocean exploration and research be limited to scientists. Everyone with a connection to the web, including students, teachers, decisionmakers and the general public, will be able to have access to these undersea networks, enthused Mark Abbott today.

As dean of Oregon State University's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Abbott is participating in a newly funded academic partnership to develop, install and operate the coastal and global components of the National Science Foundation's Ocean Observatories Initiative. He says the project "will transform ocean research and education."

The academic partnership led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution of Massachusetts today was awarded a $97.7 million contract by the Joint Oceanographic Institutions, JOI, a private, nonprofit consortium of 31 oceanographic research institutions that manages large-scale marine research programs.

The partnership also includes the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. This award completes the management team to construct and implement the $331.5 million Ocean Observatories Initiative Network.

The Ocean Observatories Initiative Network is the U.S. science community's contribution to an international effort to establish a Global Ocean Observing System.

A major goal of the global observatory is to better understand and predict the impact of climate change on the interlinked ocean-atmosphere system, and on marine ecosystems, biodiversity and community structure, especially in remote, poorly sampled parts of the world's ocean.

"This initiative is a major investment that will transform our understanding of the ocean," said Joint Oceanographic Institutions President Steven Bohlen. "It will contribute to tremendous advances in our understanding of how Earth works."

Each of the three partners will contribute scientific and engineering expertise to the development of a range of innovative moored buoys, cabled nodes, and autonomous vehicles that will provide users with data in real-time or near-real-time. Users will be able to remotely control their instruments and construct virtual observatories tailored to their scientific needs.

"By exploiting technological advances in the fields of in situ sensors, autonomous vehicles, and cyberinfrastructure, including telecommunications and networking, the OOI will revolutionize the way we conduct oceanography," said Jim Luyten, acting president and director of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

"These systems will provide us the ability to continuously monitor the ocean over time and space," Luyten said.

"The ability to make long-term measurements in the coastal and global ocean provides an opportunity to truly understand ocean variability, hazards, and climate change in response to natural events and human activity," said Tony Haymet, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The team will design and deploy global buoys to address planetary-scale problems in critical high latitude locations in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Initially, permanent and transportable arrays of buoys and autonomous vehicles will be deployed off the Pacific Northwest and Mid-Atlantic Bight to study coastal processes and to monitor changes in coastal systems.

The aim of the coastal arrays is to understand complex coastal ecosystems and their critical role in the ecology and biogeochemistry of the world's oceans, coastal hazards such as storms and harmful algal blooms, and the impact of climate change on the coastal ocean.

Raytheon will provide project management and systems engineering support, and Technip and Science Applications International Corporation will assist in the design of a high-performance moored platform for the OOI Network.

The initial 67 month contract is valued at $97.7 million and contains options for five years of operation and maintenance, which would bring total funding to more than $200 million.

In May, JOI announced awards to the University of Washington to lead the regional components of the U.S. initiative and to the University of California-San Diego, to lead the cyberinfrastructure component.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.