What’s in the Water?
Calculating the amount of chlorophyll in the Gulf of Maine is the focus of research by UMaine doctoral candidate Michael Sauer.
Sauer, who is based at UMaine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole, Maine, has received a $30,000 NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship to create a more accurate calculation of the amount of chlorophyll in the water. He is using optical equipment, sensors, and data from Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System buoys to compile information about temperature, salinity and lightabsorption in the water column.
Algorithms used for NASA satellite chlorophyll imageryare based on the open ocean, where phytoplankton is theprimary ocean color source. However, the current method of measuring chlorophyll from satellite images can’t discern it from colored, dissolved organic matter (clear, yellowish-brown river water). Misinterpreting the color of the ocean results in misunderstanding the health of the ocean ecosystem.
Sauer was one of two UMaine graduate students to receive NASA fellowships last year. Oceanography doctoral candidate Margaret Estapa is studying the release of carbon from mud delivered from the Mississippi River to areas along the Gulf Coast.
Tapping the Tides
Using a $951,500 federal appropriation, UMaine researchers have teamed up with colleagues at Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) and Portland-based Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) LLC and others to assess current prototypes and models of turbines that can be submerged in the ocean to produce power using tidal currents. The researchers also will evaluate the potential environmental impact of harnessing tidal energy off the coast of Eastport in the Western Passage of Passamaquoddy Bay.
UMaine oceanography professor Huijie Xue is an expert in oceanographic computer modeling, which is key to understanding how much energy is produced by ocean currents.
The impact on the ocean environment and how to lessen that effect is another issue researchers, including UMaine fish biologist Gayle Zydlewski with the School of Marine Sciences, are working to understand.
MMA and ORPC bring specialized skills and knowledge that will allow the research and turbine development to advance efficiently and safely, serving the state’s economy and the environment.
Throughout the summer, ORPC conducted in-water testing of the commercial design of its generator unit, which has turbines made of a composite material developed by U.S. Windblade LLC of Bath, and a composite structural frame made by Harbor Technologies LLC of Brunswick—two companies with ties to UMaine’s AEWC Advanced Structures & Composites Center.
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