A micro-plankton detector for deployment in the marine environment (University of Washington)
A micro-plankton detector for deployment in the marine environment (Institute for Systems Biology)
NSF-funded researchers at the University of Washington have developed an instrument that studies the complex structure of microbial communities on the ocean's surface while onboard a moving ship.
Such instrumentation is essential for understanding biogeochemical and ecological processes in the ocean. SeaFlow, a flow cytometer, will provide an unprecedented view of the relationship between environmental features and microbial communities at spatial scales from a few hundred meters to thousands of kilometers.
Because SeaFlow operates semi-autonomously, an onboard operator needed only minimal training to control the instrument during the voyage on the research vessel Thomas G. Thompson. Through a remote connection to the SeaFlow once or twice a day, the technician viewed data and made adjustments as necessary. The link also helped identify if more invasive intervention was necessary.
As SeaFlow is further refined to become increasingly autonomous, it will adapt its sampling based on observed changes in microbial community structure. Sampling at positions where the most significant biological gradients are observed will provide new insights into microbial structure and function within the ocean.
Self-propelled instruments offer feedback on the ocean's energyResearch Areas: Earth & Environment Locations: California, Florida, Massachusetts, Washington
Remote-controlled vehicles measure circulation patterns far below the surfaceResearch Areas: Earth & Environment Locations: Washington, International