Berkeley Lab

Berkeley scientists embarked on a 10-day research voyage funded by the National Science Foundation to test robotic floats in studies of the ocean's biological carbon pump, and they brought along a Berkeley Lab science writer to document the trip. Read the daily dispatches to get a sense of what it takes to conduct ocean research off the coast of California, and learn how robots at sea could be used to collect data that will help us better understand climate change.

So What’s It Really Like Doing Research on a Ship?

Jong-Mi Lee, Yang Xiang and Phoebe Lam of UC Santa Cruz process samples in their “Bubble” on board the Oceanus. Setting up and organizing the various lab spaces take up a large proportion of the time spent loading a ship. Phoebe Lam’s “Bubble” and Jim Bishop’s clean air-water filtration station are examples of spaces that the researchers need to ensure that the samples they collect are not contaminated.

When the researchers are not out on deck deploying or recovering equipment, they are often found in the main lab area working with the samples or the robotic floats. Read More »

A Floating Classroom for Students

Doug Beck, the bosun on Oceanus, teaches UC Berkeley student William Kumler how to work the controls of the stern winch. (Photo: Sarah Yang)All members of Jim Bishop’s team on board the Oceanus have been trained in key deck operations, such as working the tag lines during CTD deployment. UC Berkeley junior William Kumler, for instance, has been introduced to the winch at the stern of the ship. He stood at the controls during sediment trap deployments and recovery, vigilantly following the signals for letting out or taking in cable.

“It was terrifying,” said Kumler after his first go at the controls. “Right next to the controls are a bunch of signs warning me about what can go wrong if I’m not careful.” Read More »

With All Floats On Board, It’s Time to Head to Deeper Seas

Recovery of the Carbon Flux Explorer-Cal. (Photo: Sarah Yang)All robots are present and accounted for. The two Carbon Flux Explorers launched yesterday and the day before were recovered today, including CFE-Cal 2 with its experimental sample collection system.

When the latter robot was inspected on deck, the researchers were initially disappointed to see that a tube meant to direct particles into the tray had become disconnected. If the separation occurred soon after its deployment, there would be no samples to show for its time at sea. Read More »

A Gremlin On Board

Meet the Gremlin. Several years ago, Jim Bishop found him in a toolkit that came with a box of new particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) sensors used on the CTD Rosette. The figurine was a joke, apparently added to the box of spare parts by the sensor manufacturers.

The Gremlin gets the blame when equipment and electronics don’t perform as expected, and the cause is unclear. For example, a key GPS system failed that stopped many of the ship’s scientific sensors, and it took hours of head scratching to figure out what had happened. Read More »

Star Charting the Santa Cruz Basin at Night

starmap1080 If you’ve been tracking the Oceanus, you may have noticed a familiar pattern in some of its movements. The first night at the Santa Cruz Basin, the Oceanus conducted spatial mapping of the region, surveying temperature, salinity and other variables relevant to the particle concentration in the water. Connect the dots and the star will appear.

“Basically, if you do research in one spot, we need to know if it is representative of the rest of the spots in the region,” said Jim Bishop. “A star pattern is an effective pattern if you want to cover the greatest area.” Read More »