All posts by Erin Bilbo

Erin is a marine biologist at the Inner Space Center.

March 2017 Newsletter

Hello Ocean Explorers:

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Northwest Passage Project’s website, www.northwestpassageproject.org. The Northwest Passage Project (NPP), an innovative science and education initiative that includes an expedition into the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. This National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project will engage intergenerational cohorts of high school, undergraduate, and graduate students in hands-on research exploring the changing Arctic and collecting data.

The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer has recently started another expedition exploring the waters off of Apia, Samoa, in the western Pacific Ocean. Live-streamed through ISC’s Mission Control, NOAA’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) will take place throughout the cruise, March 7- March 29. Baseline data will be collected on deep-water ecosystems in and around U.S. marine protected areas in the central and western Pacific. Be sure to follow along and tune into what should be some amazing exploration opportunities.

Registration is now open for the ISC’s Summer 2017 session of Ocean Science Exploration Camp! This year’s camp will take place from June 26th through 30th, 2017, and will focus on geological oceanography. During this week- long day camp, campers will conduct field investigations and apply scientific techniques to sample sediments, survey beaches, and investigate how coastal RI habitats differ and may be changing. Register for camp on the ISC Camps page.


Northwest Passage Project

Courtesy of Vancouver Maritime Museum.

The Inner Space Center (ISC) Associate Director Gail Scowcroft is the Principal Investigator and Project Director for the groundbreaking Northwest Passage Project (NPP), which will explore the dramatically changing Arctic by taking a team of natural and social scientists, students, and a professional film crew into the Canadian Arctic’s Northwest Passage during August 2017. The expedition team, including ISC staff members, will make the five-week journey aboard the Newport-based SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, the first full-rigged sailing ship to sail into the Passage in over a century.

Through exploration at sea and on land, the team will conduct groundbreaking ocean science research in a region that is now experiencing unprecedented environmental change, while actively engaging 35 graduate, undergraduate, and high school students in hands-on research activities. The project’s activities and findings will be shared with diverse audiences through real-time interactions, an ultra-high definition, two-hour documentary to be broadcast by a major television venue, and related community events. The project’s goal is to increase public understanding of the environmental and social consequences due to Arctic climate change; inform decision makers who influence policy development and action; and inspire students to become the next generation of scientists who will help lead efforts to ensure a more sustainable and prosperous future. Links to the live programs from the Arctic will be shared this summer. To learn more about the different science activities planned for the NPP expedition, please go here.

To learn more about the expedition, project partners, and more, please visit the Northwest Passage Project website. For project updates, please be sure to follow the ISC on social media (#NWPproject).


News Update

Image courtesy of National Transportation Safety Board. El Faro stern.

In April 2016, the ISC team worked with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to help investigators find the data recorder of the El Faro cargo ship that sunk during Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015. Transcripts from the El Faro‘s voyage data recorder (VDR; similar to an airplane’s black “box”) have been released by the NTSB. The VDR’s recording covers the last hours of the voyage and reveal what happened on the El Faro during its final moments. The ISC was integral in the discovery of the VDR, installing cutting-edge telepresence technologies on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s research vessel (RV), Atlantis. These efforts were praised by federal investigators. 60 Minutes recently released a piece, “Voices of the Lost”, which tells the story of the El Faro’s unfortunate encounter with Hurricane Joaquin, the NTSB’s efforts to locate and decode the VDR, and the what the recordings revealed. The piece is available on the 60 Minutes website.


Ship News

The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer has been very active as it starts its 2017 exploration season. In conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, HI, the ship conducted a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive on two Japanese mini submarines. Highlights of the dive are available on the Okeanos Explorer website. The historic dive was also broadcast live on USA Today and ABC News. Additional images of the dive are available on NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries website.

After initial shakedown cruises off Honolulu, HI, the ship then sailed to explore the waters surrounding American Samoa, a U.S. territory covering seven South Pacific islands and atolls. Data and information from this expedition will fill gaps in knowledge about the deep-sea habitats in the region and improve overall understanding of the deep-sea biogeography of the Central Pacific. American Samoa lies at the boundary between major biogeographic provinces, and thus is a key area to understand the biodiversity transitions that occur in the deep Pacific Ocean. It is also an extremely important area for deepwater circulation. During the first part of the American Samoa Expedition, from February 16 – March 2, 2017, many amazing discoveries

American Samoa Expedition, from February 16 – March 2, 2017, many amazing discoveries were made including the siting of a new species of cookie brittle star, an unusual stalked crinoid, and even a “living fossil”. The team discovered a living specimen of monoplacaphora mollusk, a species of snail that scientists had never seen alive.

Monoplacophore. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Exploration and Research.

The second leg of this expedition will be a mapping leg to create images of the sea floor, and will take place in April 2017.

The Okeanos Explorer’s has begun its next expedition, “Discovering the Deep: Exploring Remote Pacific Marine Protected Areas”, which will take place from March 7 – 29, 2017. The goal of this expedition is to collect critical baseline information about unknown and poorly known deep-water areas in the Howland and Baker Unit of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM) and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). Live footage from the ROV dives are streamed through the homepage of the ISC website as well as the NOAA Okeanos Explorer website. To learn about all, planned Okeanos Explorer activities for 2017, please read the ISC’s latest Okeanos article.

The E/V Nautilus will begin their 2017 expedition season this spring off of Southern California. Until then, catch up on all of their highlights on nautiluslive.org.


2017 Ocean Science Exploration Camp- Geological Oceanography

Registration is now open for the ISC’s Summer 2017 session of Ocean Science Exploration Camp. This year’s camp will take place from June 26-30, 2017, at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography in Narragansett, RI, and will focus on geological oceanography.

Geological oceanography is the study of the sea floor, including its composition, structures, and history. Geological oceanographers study processes of the ocean to discover how the Earth and oceans were formed and how ongoing processes may change them in the future. They examine the ocean from the deepest depths to the shallow coasts, including beaches, estuaries, and rivers. New underwater mountains, seamounts, vents, and seeps are discovered during geological oceanography research expeditions. These undersea features are home to many kinds of marine life.

For more information about this summer’s Ocean Science Exploration Camp program and registration details, please visit the ISC Camps webpage.


ISC Education Program Spotlight: “The Unknown Ocean”

Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Exploration and Research.

The ocean covers nearly 71% of the Earth, yet approximately only 10% of the ocean has been explored.

Scientists are continuing to explore the ocean’s biology, geology, chemistry, physics, and history. This program covers the tools and technologies that scientists use to explore the deep ocean, how animals have adapted to survive in extreme ocean environments, and the technology used to investigate the deep sea. Through videos, demonstrations, and conversations with scientists, participants will go on a journey into the unknown ocean.

All ISC education programs align with the U.S. Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), as well as the Ocean Literacy Principles and Fundamental Concepts. ISC education programs can be booked at the ISC, at your site, or virtually (online).

If this program interests you, take advantage of our “monthly spotlight special.” If you book a The Unknown Ocean program in the month of March (actual program does not have to occur in March) you will receive a 15% discount.


Special Programs with the Girl Scouts of Southern New England

The ISC continues to offer ocean science education programs through the Girl Scouts of Southern New England (GSSNE). Programming will continue through June with topics to include hurricane science and forecasting; plankton biology and ecology; and ocean exploration. Individual girls, or whole troops, can register for these programs. Specific dates and registration details are available through GSSNE website.

Upcoming Programs:

The Unknown Ocean with URI Inner Space Center (B)

Date: Sat Apr 22, 10:00 AM – Sat Apr 29, 11:30 AM

Location: University of Rhode Island: Inner Space Center

Hurricanes: Science and Society with URI Inner Space Center

Date: Sat May 06, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Location: GSSNE Office

Walk the Plank (ton) with URI Inner Space Center (J)

Date: Sat Jun 10, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Location: GSSNE Office


Upcoming Public Tours

Explore with us and sign up for an ISC public tour.

Our upcoming public tour dates are:

Tuesday, April 4 @3PM.

Tuesday, May 2 @3PM.

Fee: $5 per participant.

Tour registration will close 24 hours prior to the scheduled date.

Book here (pre-registration is required)

Please contact tours@innerspacecenter.org with any questions. Private ISC tours are also available for school, youth, and public groups as well as other organizations.


Throwback Thursday

This month’s #TBT video takes a look at an uncommon creature found during a NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer ROV dive last month. Scientists were intrigued by this dandelion siphonophore found on the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument (American Samoa). It could be a new species!

 

 

 


Northwest Passage Project

The Northwest Passage Project (NPP) will explore the changing Arctic environment during an innovative expedition that will engage diverse audiences through real time interactions from sea, an ultra-high definition 2-hour documentary, and related community events.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the NPP is a collaborative effort between the University of Rhode Island (URI) Inner Space Center (ISC) and Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO), the film company David Clark, Inc., and several other collaborators, including six U.S. Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and the tall ship SSV Oliver Hazard Perry (OHP).

Two cohorts, each consisting of 18 students (six high school students, nine undergraduate students, and three graduate students), will sail on board the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry for 2-2.5 week legs. These students will receive science content instruction as the ship is underway, gain navigation and sailing skills, engage in hands-on projects while aboard and during site visits on land, and contribute to live broadcasts from the Arctic.

The student participants will be sailing on the OHP, the first ocean-going, full-rigged tall ship built in the U.S. in over 100 years. The students, scientific party, film crew, and ship’s crew will journey through the Arctic’s Northwest Passage in August of 2017.

For more information on the NPP, please read a recent press release.

 

ISC Team helps discover black box from El Faro shipwreck

UPDATE:

Transcripts from the El Faro‘s black box have been released by the National Transportation Safety Board. The recording covers the last hours of the voyage. The Inner Space Center was integral in the discovery of the black box and was  praised by federal investigators.


Original Post:

The Inner Space Center (ISC) team has been working in conjunction with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship. The 790-foot cargo ship sank off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015.

NTSB has been interested in finding the “black box” (voyage data recorder) from the ship to further their investigations of the wreck. They are hoping the black box will show what was happening mechanically prior to the ship’s sinking, and also contain audio recordings of the captain and crew.

Dr. Dwight Coleman, Director of the ISC, worked with NTSB and WHOI to install telepresence technologies on WHOI’s research vessel (R/V), Atlantis.  WHOI’s autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), Sentry, collected sonar data and high-resolution photographs of the ship’s 13.5-square mile debris field. The ISC’s telepresence technologies transferred these images, in real time, from the R/V Atlantis to on-shore investigators, while also allowing for quick and efficient two-way communications between those on board the ship and the team at NTSB’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

On Tuesday, April 26, 2016,  the black box was located, a critical discovery.  The ISC team hopes to use telepresence technologies to assist with future investigations of the El Faro cargo ship.


Wreckage map of the El Faro. Image courtesy of National Transportation Safety Board.

 

 

Northwest Passage Project Press Release

URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography receives $2.9 million grant for groundbreaking Arctic expedition

Team will sail into Northwest Passage next August to conduct research, education aboard tall ship, Oliver Hazard Perry

NARRAGANSETT, R.I., Sept. 7, 2016—The University of Rhode Island has received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct a groundbreaking research and education expedition into the Canadian Arctic’s Northwest Passage.

URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography’s Inner Space Center, an international facility that supports and conducts ocean science research expeditions, will lead the expedition, which will begin in August 2017.

The three-year Northwest Passage Project is a collaboration among the GSO, the film company David Clark, Inc., and several other partners, including America’s newest tall ship, the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, three science museums, PBS NewsHour Reporting Labs, and six Minority Serving Institutions: California State University Channel Islands; City College of New York; Florida International University; Texas State University; University of Illinois at Chicago; and Virginia Commonwealth University.

The consequences of climate warming are more pronounced and observable in the polar regions than any place else on Earth. The team will explore the changing Arctic through unprecedented educational and scientific endeavor, which centers around a five-week expedition on the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, the first full-rigged sailing ship to enter the Northwest Passage in more than a century.

Two groups, each consisting of 18 students—six high school students, nine undergraduate students, and three graduate students—will sail for 17-day legs of the expedition. The students will receive science instruction as the ship is underway, gain navigation and sailing skills, and work alongside ocean scientists as they conduct Arctic research. The 18 undergraduate students will be from the Minority Serving Institutions. There will be an application process for high school and graduate students.

The students will also contribute to daily live broadcasts from the Arctic that will stream from the ship via satellite to the Inner Space Center, which will then send the live broadcasts to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward, where audiences will be able to interact in real time with the scientists and students aboard the ship.

In addition to the live broadcasts from sea, the project will result in a two-hour, ultra high-definition documentary for television. The Minority Serving Institutions and the three science museums will host screenings of the film and events where the public can meet the expedition’s students and scientists.

Gail Scowcroft, associate director of the Inner Space Center and principal investigator and director of the project, says she is delighted to receive the grant.

“The rapidly changing Arctic environment is an issue of global importance,’’ Scowcroft says. “Broader impacts of Arctic research must include informing policy, educating the citizenry to make sound decisions, and inspiring students to become the next generation of scientists. Challenges to educating the public and communicating the realities and impacts of the changing Arctic must be overcome with credible, understandable science and proven methods of climate education. The project meets these challenges. We are extremely grateful to the National Science Foundation for giving us this opportunity, and we look forward to bringing high school, undergraduate, and graduate students along on the expedition of a lifetime. We fully expect that the onboard team of filmmakers led by David Clark, an award-winning film producer and director, will capture the participants’ excitement so that the public can share in our journey.’’

“We are blessed with a top shelf team,’’ says Scowcroft. More than 25 ocean science researchers and educators from throughout the country will be involved. Brice Loose, GSO scientist and co-principal investigator of the project, will be the chief scientist for the expedition and will lead the students in conducting cutting-edge research. Inner Space Center Director Dwight Coleman, an international leader in telepresence technology, will direct the shore-side operations of the expedition.

The team will depart from Newport in August 2017. The ship will sail to Pond Inlet in Nunavut, Canada, where the scientists and students will begin their research. The film crew will join the ship there. “Our Northwest Passage Project team will be part of history,’’ says Clark, “as we provide a visually stunning and historically poignant platform from which diverse audiences will experience a dramatically changing Arctic.”

For more information, visit www. Innserspacecenter.org or contact the Northwest Passage Project Coordinator Andrea Gingras at 401-874-6524.

Photo above: SSV Oliver Hazard Perry. Photo by Onne van der Wal.

Courtesy of the University of Rhode Island. Media contact Elizabeth Rau, 401-874-4894

Telepresence on the R/V Sally Ride

From November 28 to December 5, 2016, the Inner Space Center (ISC) supported a science verification cruise for the R/V Sally Ride, one of two, new vessels in the U.S. Academic Research Fleet.  These short cruises are intended to test the ship, crew, and science systems to make sure that all are in proper working order before the ship  departs for its first research expedition. The Sally Ride was named after the late Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, who was part of the space shuttle Challenger crew in 1983.


The ISC team tested
the ship’s capabilities to support the Jason remotely operated vehicle (ROV) system as well as ship-to-shore telepresence technologies and protocols that will enable shore-based participation during ROV dives. Director of the ISC, Dr. Dwight Coleman, installed a mobile telepresence unit (MTU) on board. This unit allows for any ship to have telepresence capabilities.

jason_870_0
ROV Jason deployed off the R/V Sally Ride.

During the cruise, ROV Jason was used for a variety of exploration activities. Geophysicist, Dr. Mark Zumberge, and his group from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, used Jason to attach geophysical sensors to the sea floor. Dr. Lisa Levin, also from Scripps, used the ROV system to continue biological survey of the seafloor around the Del Mar methane seep near San Diego, CA.

View from ROV Jason.

Along with ROV operations, the R/V Sally Ride was able to connect to the Birch Aquarium. Amanda Netburn, Bruce Applegate, and Dwight Coleman hosted live  broadcasts to the aquarium’s new Sally Ride exhibit.

Birch Aquarium audience.

For more details about the R/V Sally Ride, visit their website.

Amazing aphyonid fish!

The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer has been having an amazing cruise leg with lots of new discoveries. Last night the scientists made another amazing discovery. The scientists observed an aphyonid fish, roughly 10 cm long. This is the first time that this creature has ever been seen alive! 

Aphynoid fish. Never seen alive until today! Image curteousy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer.
Aphynoid fish. Never seen alive until today! Images courtesy NOAA Okeanos Explorer.

Scientists were thrilled to see such an amazing fish! This eel-like fish has been found around 2,000-6,000 meters. The aphynoid fish had transparent skin and reduced eyes. They are known for their unusual reproductive habits.

Be sure to follow the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer for more amazing discoveries!