Fish Radio

July 11, 2014

 This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – New technology tracks ocean acidity in Prince William Sound. More after this —                                   

Wave glider Credit: NOAA

Wave glider
Credit: NOAA

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Unmanned gliders are tracking how melting glaciers may be intensifying corrosive waters in Prince William Sound.

 What’s happening is in different regions of the world, natural processes are worsening the effects of OA so that a region like PWS may already be preconditioned to have low pH conditions.  

Jeremy Mathis is director of NOAA’s Ocean Environment Research Division at the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle.

So now we have this manmade process combining with this natural process and it makes some regions more vulnerable to the impacts of OA than other regions.    

To track the ocean chemistry changes, unmanned gliders are being used inside and outside the Sound. Two Carbon Wave Gliders that look like yellow surfboards are propelled by wave motions and test surface conditions. The gliders are controlled back in the lab with an iPad.

 It’s been hugely successful. We’ve flown these things all over inside PW, we’ve had great control over them, we’ve been able to move them to exactly where we want them to be. So that’s been hugely successful. It’s making thousands of measurements at the surface all over PWS. 6

 Another so called Slocum Glider, also controlled remotely, resembles a yellow torpedo and dives down 600 feet, then resurfaces.                                      

Slocum glider Credit:  NOAA

Slocum glider
Credit: NOAA

 It makes these gliding profiles and it’s collecting data on these dives as it moves from the surface down and back up. And when it breaks the surface it transmits all the data via satellite back to the labs.  

Before, researchers contracted with boats and crew to take only about four water samples each year. Mathis calls the unmanned gliders revolutionary.

 That’s a the technological revolution that will change the way we collect data, the way we can understand ecosystem environmental processes and how we can ultimately communicate what we’ve learned to stakeholders. That’s the ultimate goal is to make sure we understand what is going on with the fisheries, and the biology and communicate that back to the fishing communities and stakeholders in Alaska. 14

 The gliders have been deployed since May and already are showing preliminary results.

 One of our conclusions is going to be that the glaciers are having quite an extensive impact on the water chemistry of PWS.20

 Mathis says the gliders will soon be deployed throughout the Gulf, the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean.


Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.