Scientists Can’t Get There but Honey Badger Can

Adapted from University of Texas press release The previous link is a link to non-Federal government website. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer.

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The Wave Glider is an autonomous surface vehicle consisting of two parts, a float on the surface of the ocean connected by a 7m umbilical to a "sub" or wing rack subsea. Together, they work in unison to convert the up and down motion of the waves into forward thrust. As a result, the Wave Glider does not need fuel for propulsion nor does it produce emissions. Credit: Tracy Villareal, The University of Texas Marine Science Institute.

Satellite imagery has revealed that large blooms of phytoplankton (single-celled plants) form in the vast Pacific Ocean covering thousands of square miles and lasting for many weeks.

Until now, the remote location in the open ocean have made it very difficult to identify what types of plants are creating this massive mat of plant-life and what conditions lead up to these blooms. Scientists Tracy Villareal from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute and Cara Wilson from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center of NOAA Fisheries will be sending out the Honey Badger to figure it out. Their mission named MAGI uses a state-of-the-art Wave Glider®, nicknamed Honey Badger, from Liquid Robotics. The MAGI six month mission kicks off this week to begin sampling where these blooms develop in the Pacific Ocean near a remote region in the horse latitudes at 30°N. The goal of the mission is to identify the species that make up the blooms and then figure out how and when they start to form large balls, or aggregates.  Are they an important part of the food chain?  What happens to them?

 
Follow Honey Badger's Journey: http://oceanview.pfeg.noaa.gov/MAGI/

The Honey Badger Wave Glider will need to be tenacious. Even though these blooms are large, they are quite fickle in their formation and the extreme expanse of the ocean will make it a challenge for the scientists to direct the Honey Badger with the aid of satellite telemetry to the right part of the ocean, at the right time. If they can just time it right, the Honey Badger shouldn’t disappoint. The Honey Badger Wave Glider is a unique piece of equipment, developed by Liquid Robotics Inc., as the first unmanned autonomous marine robot to use only the ocean's endless supply of wave energy for propulsion. It has been customized with a multitude of sensors for this mission. Sensors include a high resolution camera; fluorometer to record presence of chlorophyll and other pigments; weather stations; wave detection equipment; tracking device; sensors to listen for acoustic tags of large marine predators; digital holographic particle imaging system; and last but not least an instrument to record temperature and salinity. All this instrumentation is on an autonomous vehicle, saving the expense and long lead time required for research vessel operations. It’s a bargain, but even so is not an easy task.

This is all possible because Liquid Robotics invited scientists, students and educators to compete in the PacX Challenge competition, which recognized the most innovative application of the PacX ocean data. Dr. Villareal was the Liquid Robotics PacX Challenge grand winner with his collaborator Dr. Cara Wilson of NOAA/SWFSC/ERD. The PacX Challenge prize consisted of a $50,000 research grant (courtesy of BP, the exclusive oil and gas industry supporter of the PacX Challenge) and six months of Wave Glider time. A National Science Foundation award supported the reconfiguration of the glider and purchase of additional sensing equipment, all of which was implemented by the Geophysical Exploration Research Group at Texas A&M.  Data integration and website development was performed by Bob Simons and Lynn Dewitt at NOAA/SWFSC/ERD. This is truly a collaborative effort. 

About the University of Texas Marine Science Institute: The previous link is a link to non-Federal government website. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer.
The University of Texas Marine Science Institute was the first marine research laboratory founded in Texas. The Institute is dedicated to advancing knowledge of our estuaries, coastal and blue water oceans, training future generations of marine scientists, and raising ocean literacy through diverse education and outreach programs.  

About the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC):
The SWFSC is the research arm of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service in the Southwest Region. The SWFSC’s mission is to generate the scientific information necessary for the conservation and management of the region’s living marine resources.

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  PacXcontest_Wilson_Villareal_News Cara Wilson (L) (Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries) and Tracy Villareal (R) (University of Texas Marine Science Institute) win the PacX Challenge competition, which recognized the most innovative application of the PacX ocean data. Credit: Liquid Robotics, Inc.