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The OSV Bold supports a variety of monitoring and educational tasks. The ship carries high-tech instruments to collect data from the water column, sediments, and even marine life. The Bold also carries onboard equipment that can take underwater video, side-scan sonar, and sampling instruments such as corers, dredges, and trawls. Onboard laboratories allow scientists to process, analyze, and store samples while they are out at sea.
The sturdy A-frame on the back deck of the Bold, helps the scientists deploy the equipment for sampling and monitoring.
A bottom grab, does exactly what it sounds like! This piece of equipment catches muddy sediment, and it can collect down to about two feet into the bottom. The grab is lowered to the bottom by a cable and water is able to flow through it as it is lowered down. When it hits the bottom, it releases a catch that allows the two doors to close, capturing the mud. Scientists use this grabbing technique to measure the concentrations of pollutants in the mud or to look at the small marine invertebrates, such as worms (polychaetes), crustaceans (such as amphipods), or mollusks (such as small clams) that may live in the surface of the sediments. This type of sample is incredibly important. Scientists can tell if the study area is a healthy environment or polluted depending on the types of species of organisms they find in the mud grabs.
Next to the onboard dry lab, there is a computer room. In here, scientists can use remote control equipment to steer the side scan tow fish, tell the CTD how deep to go and watch underwater video of the area they are studying!
A CTD is the primary tool for understanding the physical properties of sea water that are essential for supporting marine life. C stands for "Conductivity," T stands for "Temperature," and D stands for "Depth". A CTD gives scientists an accurate and comprehensive charting of the distribution and change in water temperature, salinity, and density for the water column they are studying. All of these are important for understanding how healthy an area of water is for supporting marine life.
How does a CTD work?
The CTD is made up of a set of small high tech probes, attached to the large metal rosette water sampler. The rosette is lowered on a cable down to the depths that the scientists want to evaluate, sometimes all the way to the seafloor. While the CTD is still underwater it reports electronic messages through a cable back to the onboard computer lab. While the CTD is gathering data underwater, computers on the ship are constantly reading that data and creating charts and line graphs. This helps the scientists understand right away the changes in the water column as the CTD goes deeper and deeper.
A typical CTD drop, or hydro-cast as the scientists like to call it, can take 5 to 15 minutes depending on how deep the scientists want to go. For the work that EPA does, generally within depths of 300 feet, gathering a complete set of CTD data can take less than 20 minutes.
True or False?
Salinity and conductivity both refer to the amount of dissolved salt in a body of water.
Up in the dry lab, on board the ship, scientists can look at organisms under microscopes. These organisms can be collected in the mud, or water and by looking at the species, the scientists can tell if the environment is healthy or polluted, or even being taken over by invasive species that don't naturally belong there.
Believe it or not! Some oceanic organisms like pollution, and there presence in a mud sample can tell a scientist a lot about that underwater environment.
The otter trawl is a specialized net for catching fish on the bottom of the ocean in sandy, silty seabeds. Contrary to the name, it is not used for collecting otters! When scientists are trying to determine the health of ocean bottom environment, it is sometimes helpful to collect real fish for the study.
If the ocean bottom is too muddy, or has too many rocks or boulders, the otter trawl doesn't work very well. When it is slowly dragged on the bottom, (at about 2 knots, or 2 mph) the scientists do not want it to get snagged on a boulder that could tear it!
In 2007, this type of trawl helped scientists on the OSV Bold check on some close-to-shore habitats for winter flounder in Rhode Island Sound. The population of winter flounder has decreased dramatically off the coast of Rhode Island in the past 25 years. To try to better understand why this has happened, the scientists wanted to identify the most important nursery zones for flounder. The Bold helped scientists collect data from off shore adult flounder to compare with younger, juvenile flounder still living in the near-shore nursery habitats. By a trace chemical, "fingerprint technique", the scientists could tell which nursery zone the adult flounder had come from. Once EPA and the state of Rhode Island have a better idea where most of the flounder are coming from, everyone can work to better protect those important habitats.
A rocking chair dredge is like the trawl, as it is slowly pulled behind the boat. This type of dredge is used to collect or sample for shellfish such as clams, or scallops in the bottom sediments, it works well in sandy bottom environments. The dredge rocks up and down in the sediment collecting the shellfish, which are contained in its mesh bag.
While EPA scientists usually collect waters samples within 300 feet deep, this equipment has the ability to go down thousands of meters.
How many feet are in 1 meter?
Read about the latest dive mission in Puerto Rico!
Every day, I commute to my EPA office in downtown New York. However, twice a year, I'm assigned to work on EPA's Ocean Survey Vessel BOLD. I am currently on assignment in Puerto Rico to monitor coral reefs. Read More »
Coral Condition Survey Continues
We spent the first eight days of BOLD operations deploying dive teams to 60 locations spread across the entire southern coast of Puerto Rico to collect data on the corals. Read More »
Side-scan sonar is a type of sonar system that is used to be able to understand what lies at the bottom of the sea floor. On the Bold, the side-scan sonar "tow fish" can create an image of the sea floor so that the scientists can understand the hills, valleys, reefs and debris that are in the study area. This tool is used for mapping the seabed for a wide variety of purposes, including creation of nautical charts and detection and identification of underwater objects and bathymetric features.
Bathymetry is the study of underwater depth. Check out this map! Purple areas are the deepest, yellow shows areas of land above the surface of the water.
Side scan sonar can be used to conduct surveys for maritime archaeology; along with seafloor samples, the sonar can help scientists understand the different materials and textures of the seabed. The pictures that the sonar tow fish sends back to the ship oftentimes find debris items left from human activities. Check out our gallery of side scan images!
What else can side scan sonar help with?
On the Bold, the side-scan sonar is called the "tow fish" because it is pulled behind the ship underwater. Slowly, and carefully, the ship’s crew guides the ship in a set path to gather an image of the ocean floor beneath.
To make the image, the sonar "tow fish" sends out a fan shaped series of pulses (sound frequencies) down toward the seafloor. The intensity of the acoustic reflections from the seafloor of this fan-shaped beam is recorded in a series of cross-track slices. When stitched together by a computer, these slices can form an image of the sea bottom within the swath (coverage width) of the beam.
One of the inventors of side-scan sonar was German scientist, Dr. Julius Hagemann, who worked for the US navy Mine Defense Laboratory in Florida after WW II. His work is documented in US Patent 4,197,591, which remained classified by the US Navy until it was issued in 1980.
In 1963 Dr. Harold Edgerton, Edward Curley, and John Yules used side-scan sonar to find the sunken Vineyard Lightship in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.
A team led by Martin Klein developed the first successful towed, commercial, (non-military) side-scan sonar system from 1963 to 1966.
In 1967, Klein's sonar helped find King Henry VIII's flagship Mary Rose. That same year the side scan sonar also aided in the archaeologist George Bass, find a 2000 year old ship off the coast of Turkey.
In 1968 Klein founded Klein Associates, Inc, the company that designed the side scan sonar that is used on the Bold.
Why do YOU think this area is called the WET LAB? This room is right on the deck where scientists on the Bold deploy the sampling equipment. This way, a mud grab can be put directly into the wet lab to be studied. Sometimes the scientists hose down the sediment to see what organisms are in it and it can get a little messy!
The wet lab is equipped with a sieve station (sieving tables and trays), wash station with hot and cold, freshwater and salt water, an ice machine for sample preservation, refrigerator, and an electronic navigation chart that displays the ship’s location and navigation information.
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