OHSU

CMOP leads research campaign on maiden voyage of the R/V Oceanus

R/V Oceanus moored at her new home at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon.

R/V Oceanus moored at her new home at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon.

03/26/12 Newport, Ore.

This week, scientists from the Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction (CMOP) will lead the first research cruise aboard Oregon State University’s newly acquired research vessel the R/V Oceanus. CMOP’s multi-institutional team will traverse the Oregon and Washington coastlines to continue studying how climate change and human activities are affecting coastal areas.

The 35-year-old R/V Oceanus, owned by the National Science Foundation and originally operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, was recently acquired by Oregon State University to replace the retired R/V Wecoma.

“There are a few differences in science capabilities,” says Mark Abbott, dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU. “But the Oceanus is very capable and will be more cost-effective to operate over the next five to 10 years, at which point we hope to have a new ship.”

Outfitted with three winches and a crane, Oceanus is often used for deploying oceanographic buoys and moorings and for hydrographic surveys, though it is capable of all types of chemical, biological, and geological studies. Oceanus spent most of its life working in the North Atlantic, with occasional trips to the Mediterranean, South Atlantic, and Caribbean.

Murray Levine, CMOP co-director and OSU professor, will act as chief scientist and oversee deployment of moorings and baseline sampling during upcoming research campaign aboard the Oceanus.

“The Oceanus is ideal for handling mooring operations and collecting and filtering water samples,” Levine says. “This cruise will help extend the long time series of observations along the coast which is essential to improve our understanding of long-term variability and climate change. “

The CMOP team will also deploy a state-of-the–art autonomous underwater glider, named Phoebe, to search for low oxygen content in the waters off the Washington coast. Phoebe’s mission will last three weeks and she will transmit data back to shore that is accessible on CMOP’s SATURN Observation Network and Oxygen Watch web pages.

This won’t be the only time that CMOP’s multi-institutional research team will utilize the Oceanus this year. For example, CMOP investigators, Tom Sanford, Applied Physics Laboratory at University of Washington, and Byron Crump, University of Maryland Horne Point Lab, will share chief scientist duties as they lead a research campaign later this summer.

“Using revolutionary new sensors and advanced modeling technology, we will study the physical and biogeochemical processes of Estuarine Turbidity Maxima in the Columbia River estuary,” Sanford says.

Estuarine turbidity maxima (ETM) are turbid water regions located in many estuaries where freshwater and saltwater mix. They trap particles and promote biogeochemical, microbial and ecological processes that sustain an estuary's food web.

The Oceanus will serve as an anchor station in the north channel of the Columbia River estuary and allow for around-the-clock data collection of the ETM. CMOP scientists and engineers will use various techniques to collect data including a sophisticated vertical profiler, two autonomous underwater vehicles, and infrared radar.

“The research purposes are to study the processes active in the ETM that arise as the ocean intrudes into the estuary and to collect samples of the sediments, chemicals and biology that change as the ETM progresses upstream, “ Sanford says. “The measurements will be used to improve the simulations of the ETM in numerical models of the Columbia River.”

By utilizing the capabilities of the Oceanus, CMOP will continue its transformative research to assess the effects of global climate change and human impact on coastal margins.

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About the Oceanus

  • Built in 1975, and overhauled in 1994
  • 177 feet long
  • Cruising speed: 11 knots
  • Range: 7,000 nautical miles 
  • Endurance: 30 days
  • Capacity: 12 crew members and 14 scientists

About CMOP

The Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction (CMOP) is a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center. CMOP is creating a new paradigm for conducting coastal-margin science. The new paradigm is anticipatory rather than reactive, and is based on the emerging power of “Collaboratories”, structured integrations of information, observations, models and people. CMOP is a broad multi-institutional partnership led by Oregon Health & Science University, with Oregon State University and the Applied Physics Laboratory at University of Washington as anchor partners.