Rutgers university uses slocum glider for ocean acidification study

Grace Saba, Assistant Professor, Center for Ocean Observing Leadership, Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University discusses the value of the Slocum glider and pH sensor technology in the study of Ocean Acidification

Grace, to start us off, can you just give us a short introduction of yourself and an overview of your responsibilities?

I’m an assistant professor at Rutgers University: I teach, I conduct research, I serve in many roles at the university, nationally and internationally. My research focuses on the ecology and physiology of marine organisms, specifically how they respond to climate change and environmental stressors like warming sea water and ocean acidification. I conduct lab and field-based experiments and observations, and I’m also one of the faculty in The Center For Ocean Observing Leadership, (RUCOOL group) where we run one of the most advanced observatories in the world. And we specialize in underwater gliders. So the Slocum Web Glider specifically is the glider tool that we use, now I’m using gliders to observe habitats.

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Grace Saba, Assistant Professor, Center for Ocean Observing Leadership, Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University.
Photos Courtesy Rutgers University/Grace Saba
More information on Teledyne Gliders here

Can you give us an overview of your ocean acidification project specifically, when and why it was started, and what stage are we at today?

It’s kind of a weird story. I was looking into designing experiments to expose marine organisms in the Mid-Atlantic to ocean acidification conditions to see how they responded. The problem was I realized we didn’t have much data to design an experiment, to really understand the natural conditions, and specifically the natural variability of those conditions. It became almost impossible to design a realistic experiment. That’s when I started looking into some observation tools to get some more data so that we could design better experiments. And being part of the COOL team at Rutgers that uses the gliders, I naively asked, “Why can’t we just put a pH sensor onto a glider?” That was about 10 years ago, and at the time the pH sensor hadn’t been developed to be able to withstand changes in pressure – going from surface to the bottom – which is what the gliders do when they’re profiling.

So what was the solution?

It was a collaborative research with Sea-Bird Scientific, MBARI, Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Honeywell to develop pH sensors able to withstand the pressure changes. They started testing them on the Argo Profiling Floats, and once they were successfully tested on those floats, I knew it was time that we could possibly try to use them on a glider. I reached out to Seabird Scientific and Teledyne Webb Research to see if they were interested, and they were eager to get involved and give it a try.

Greg Trauthwein, Maritime Magazines. Full article.

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