Two weeks left to Support the OpenCTD and help us build an oceanographic tool for everyone!

Wow! Since we launched the OpenCTD we’ve raised nearly $4,000 to help develop an oceanographic tool the anyone can build. But $4,000 is only 40% of our funding goal, and we’ve got 12 days left to fund the rest of the project. If you believe in open source oceanography, think to tools of scientific research should be available to everyone, or just think a low-cost CTD would be a great addition to your research, teaching, or recreational activities, consider contributing to the OpenCTD. Even a few dollars will help us reach our goal.

Over the last month, I’ve talked to dozens of excited contributors with their own ideas for OpenCTD Projects. Here are a few of the most exciting:

  • Equip participants in catch-and-release fishing tournaments with an OpenCTD, so that they can take water column data and correlate it with presence of large pelagic fish. This would provide even greater insight into the movement, behavior, and migration patterns of hard-to-sample species.
  • Incorporate the OpenCTD into a SCUBA divers’ standard kit, so that your dive profile includes conductivity as well as temperature and depth. This would allow divers to discover local variability in the water column and correlate it with observations of marine life.
  • Affix the OpenCTD to commercial shrimp trawlers, so the fishermen can more accurately track the depth of their gear and determine which oceanographic conditions produce the best shrimp catches and the least by-catch.
  • Run an oceanographic “Big Year” challenge to promote open-source data by having private citizens compete to produce the most high-resolution data from a full seasonal cycle.
  • Put a CTD in every coast-, estuary-, river-, and lake-adjacent classroom, so that students have easy access to the tools necessary to explore their local aquatic ecosystems.

I want to see all of these projects, and more, come to fruition, but in order to make them happen, we need funding to finish developing the instrument. We have a proof-of-concept prototype, but through discussions with our donors and supporters, have developed even better systems to produce accurate, high-resolution data at low cost.

Oceanography for Everyone – Help us build a CTD!

Head over to our Rockethub Page for more information!

Conductivity, temperature, and depth (CTD). With these three measurements, marine scientists can unlock ocean patterns hidden beneath the waves. The ocean is not uniform, it its filled with swirling eddies, temperature boundaries, layers of high and low salinity, changing densities, and many other physical characteristics. To reveal these patterns, oceanographers use a tool called the CTD. A CTD is found on almost every major research vessel. Rare is the scientific expedition–whether it be coastal work in shallow estuaries or journeys to the deepest ocean trenches–that doesn’t begin with the humble CTD cast.

The CTD is not cheap. Commercial CTD’s start at more the $5,000 and can climb as high as $25,000 or more.

We believe that the prohibitive cost of a CTD is an unacceptable barrier to open science. The price tag excludes individuals and groups who lack research grants or significant private funds from conducting oceanographic research. We want to make this tool–the workhorse of oceanographic research–available to anyone with an interest in the oceans.

We’re building a CTD, but we need your help!

The ocean belongs to us all. Let’s ensure that we have access to the tools needed to study it.

Head over to our Rockethub Page for more information!

Updates from the Deep: New and Noteworthy in Hydrothermal Vent Research

From hairy-chested yeti crabs to the deepest known fields, hydrothermal vents have been enjoying a bit of science celebrity in the last few weeks. Beneath the headlines, there has been an eruption of vent-related research published in the scientific literature and some exciting new expeditions just left port.

The Discovery of New Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Communities in the Southern Ocean and Implications for Biogeography

'Hoff' crabs in paradise. Image from ChEss Southern Ocean Consortium

'Hoff' crabs in paradise. Image from ChEss Southern Ocean Consortium

The exhaustive author list on this paper reads like a who’s who in hydrothermal vent biogeography. This is the paper that introduced “the Hoff” crab to the world, but the findings are far more significant. Hydrothermal vent systems are sorted into biogeographic provinces, with different regions supporting different communities. The iconic giant tube worms dominate the eastern Pacific, while the western Pacific (prominently featured in Deep Fried Sea) plays host to fist sized snails, and the Atlantic features shrimp as its dominant species. There are several missing gaps in our understanding of how these qualitatively different communities are connected – the Southern Ocean, the south Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, and the Cayman Trough, among others. Filling in these gaps in our knowledge can help us understand the history and evolution of hydrothermal vent ecosystems.

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Mining the Deep Sea: what’s it worth?

a fragment of a hydrothermal vent

The shimmering insides of a vent chimney

In Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea*, the iconic Captain Nemo announced that “in the depths of the ocean, there are mines of zinc, iron, silver and gold that would be quite easy to exploit” while predicting that the abundance of marine resources could satisfy human need. If the pace of development for deep-sea mining projects and the estimated value of deep-sea ores is any indicator, it seems as though our misanthropic mariner was wrong on both counts.

In The abundance of seafloor massive sulfide deposits, an international team of geologists attempts to quantify the total available copper and zinc contained in deep-sea massive sulfide mounds. Seafloor massive sulfide mounds are a byproduct of the processes that create deep-sea hydrothermal vents. As super-heated sea water emerges from the vent, it deposits heavy metals and other elements and minerals along the walls of the vent. Over thousands of years, an active vent field can build up a huge mound of metal and mineral rich ore – a massive sulfide mound. In addition to copper and zinc, these mounds can contain gold and silver. Generally, the ore is of much higher quality than its terrestrial counterpart. Over the last few decades, many exploration companies were eyeing these deposits, but it’s only recently that technological developments and economic incentives have aligned to permit potentially profitable deep-sea mining.

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