The next generation of low-cost, open-source oceanographic instruments is here! Meet the OpenCTD rev 2!

Four generations of OpenCTD. Left to Right: Prototype 2, which went through sea trials in Lake Superior, rev 1, rev 1 in the smaller form factor (this one was deployed in Alaska), and OpenCTD rev 2.

In 2013, Kersey Sturdivant and I embarked upon a quixotic quest to create an open-source CTD — the core tool of all oceanographic research that measures the baseline parameters of salinity, temperature, and depth. We weren’t engineers; neither of us had any formal training in electronics or sensing. And, full confession, we weren’t (and still aren’t) even oceanographers! What we were were post-doc marine ecologists working with tight budgets who saw a desperate need among our peers and colleagues for low-cost alternatives to insurmountably expensive equipment. And we had ties to the growing Maker and DIY electronics movements: Kersey through his work developing Wormcam and me through my involvement with OpenROV. 

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. 

The very first OpenCTD prototype.

Seven years and five iterations later, we are releasing the long anticipated OpenCTD rev 2 as well as the comprehensive Construction and Operation Manual! OpenCTD rev 2 builds on over half a decade of iteration and testing, consultation with oceanographers, engineers, developers, and makers around the world, extensive coastal and sea trials, and a series of workshops designed to test and validate the assembly process. 

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Emerging technologies for exploration and independent monitoring of seafloor extraction in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

[The following is a transcript from a talk I gave at the 2019 Minerals, Materials, and Society Symposium at the University of Delaware in August, 2019. It has been lightly edited for clarity.]

Good afternoon and thank you all for coming. I want to change tracks for a bit and scan the horizon to think about what the future of exploration and monitoring in the high seas might look like because ocean and conservation technology is in the midst of an evolutionary shift in who has access to the tools necessary to observe the deep ocean.

This is the Area. Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, International Waters, the High Seas, the Outlaw Ocean. It’s the portion of the ocean that falls outside of national EEZs and is held in trust by the UN under the Convention on the Law of the Sea as the Common Heritage of Humankind. It covers 64% of the ocean and nearly half of the total surface of the Earth. It’s also the region in which most major deep-sea mining ventures intend to operate.

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Hagfish, chill Puffins, swamp monsters, the mining boat floats, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: April 2, 2018

Foghorn (A Call to Action!)

  • Want to help stem the tide of misinformation online and off? Do you have it all figured out and just need resources to implement your world-saving solution? The Rita Allen Foundation is looking for Solutions to Curb the Spread of Misinformation.

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

The Levee (A featured project that emerged from Oceandotcomm)

Beware the Feu Follet, by Russell Arnott

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A new Gulf oil spill, opposition to deep-sea mining, DIY drop cameras, and more! Massive Monday Morning Salvage: October 30, 2017

I’ve been away for 2 weeks, so it’s a super-massive edition of the Monday Morning Salvage!

Fog Horn (A Call to Action)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

Sampling SMS under the sea Photo: Nautilus Minerals

Jetsam (what we’re enjoying from around the web)

Hey, Andrew, how about you give us at least *some* good news today? Ok, fine.

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Documentation is the beating heart of open-science hardware: Help make ours better!

Four generations of OpenCTD.

The OpenCTD and Oceanography for Everyone has been a five year journey from inception to first field-ready model and we’re just getting started. Building a community-driven project like this requires not just expertise (that we didn’t have when we started), passion, resources, it requires documentation. Extensive, detailed, thorough documentation. Documentation is what sets an open-science hardware project apart from just another lab hack. It allows other users to replicate and validate your design. It’s the key ingredient that makes a project like the OpenCTD actually Open.

As we’ve expanded the OpenCTD, we’ve maintained comprehensive instructions for construction and operation. We’ve included notes from critical field deployments, raw data for comparisons, hardware tests, and support software.

In a lot of ways, documentation is the peer-review of open-science hardware projects.

We need your help! We are in the midst of preparing our first hardware manuscript for the OpenCTD. This paper will be a benchmark for the project and provide a citable resource for CTD users. As part of the manuscript, we will archive a static version of the OpenCTD documentation in a permanent repository for reference. Here’s what we need from you:


Hey Team Ocean! Southern Fried Science and Oceanography for Everyone is supported by contributions from our readers. Head over to Patreon to help keep our servers running an fund new and novel ocean outreach projects. Even a dollar or two a month will go a long way towards keeping our website online and producing the high-quality marine science and conservation content you love.

The many, many ways I screwed up my first science crowdfunding campaign.

Four generations of field hardened OpenCTDs.

It’s been over five years since Kersey Sturdivant and I launched Oceanography for Everyone – The OpenCTD, my first attempt at crowdfunding science. Over the years, that initial effort has grown into Oceanography for Everyone, a community of researchers, educators, and citizen scientists, and has created new open-source tools for open-source, open-science hardware. The OpenCTD is the finest oceanographic instrument that you can build in your own home for less than $300.

The crowdfunding campaign was a total disaster.

Since then, I’ve written several articles on how scientists can launch and managed crowdfunding campaigns:

…but I’ve never written explicitly about what we did wrong during that campaign and how it impacted our success. Now that the final reward from that campaign has been delivered (yes, five years later, talk about the eternally delayed crowdfunding campaign), it’s the right moment to look back and think about how everything went so wrong.

went with lesser-known platforms. We launched the OpenCTD on RocketHub. At the time, RocketHub was hosting the #SciFund Challenge, a campaign to encourage scientists to launch science crowdfunding campaigns. Both the #SciFundChallenge and RocketHub were relatively small players in the nascent crowdfunding world. RocketHub doesn’t even appear to do crowdfunding anymore, they’ve pivoted to a “social network for entrepreneurs”. The old OpenCTD campaign page is long deprecated. #SciFund Challenge’s website hasn’t been updated in almost half a year.

Here’s the thing with crowdfunding, and especially crowdfunding in the early days: There are two dominant communities that you can rely on. There’s the community of people who want to support what you’re doing and there’s the community of people enamored with the idea of crowdfunding. Being a crowdfunding “investor” is a hobby in and of itself and many of the biggest donors are people who support dozens of different campaigns. So the larger and more popular the platform, the more crowdfunding enthusiasts you’ll attract. Heck, since backing the very first OpenROV, I’ve backed 23 other projects on Kickstarter, most recently Public Lab’s Balloon Mapping kits.

By going with RocketHub, I committed our campaign to a smaller potential audience. Considering Kickstarter was garnering huge press at the time, this was a near-fatal mistake.

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Hurricane Irma, the Manatee Sheriff, climate change, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: September 11, 2017

Fog Horn (A Call to Action)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

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Chasing Genius, aquatic brain blobs, hurricanes, bats, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: September 4, 2017

Fog Horn (A Call to Action)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

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Building the future with open hardware. Monday Morning Salvage: March 27, 2017

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

I spent the last week at the annual Gathering for Open Science Hardware in Santiago, Chile exploring the future of science and the open-source movement with one of the most impressive hardware developers, hackers, makers, and artists in the world. It’s my travel day, so this will necessarily be a short one.

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