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Home - Seeing the Light – Summer 2010

While more than 3,000 profiling floats now measure ocean temperature and salinity, only a handful have optical sensors to measure properties such as fluorescence, scattering and attenuation. Boss hopes to change that with national and international collaborative programs to equip floats with sensors with expanded capabilities.

Last fall, he was awarded $1.5 million from NASA under the National Oceanographic Partnership Program for the development, assessment and commercialization of biogeochemical profiling floats for calibration and validation of ocean color and carbon studies. The project is a collaboration between UMaine and global leaders in sensor, platform and communication technologies. Satlantic Inc., of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and WET Labs of Philomath, Ore., are manufacturing the sensors; Teledyne Webb Research of East Falmouth, Mass., the floats; Maryland-based CLS America, tools for the floats’ satellite communication and data dissemination.

“What we are pioneering is a new end-to-end float-sensor system that measures physical, chemical and biological parameters,” says Boss.

The sensors Boss previously deployed on floats measured bio-optical properties — scattering (the process of shooting a beam of light and measuring what comes back), and the fluorescence of chlorophyll (shining a blue beam of light and looking at only what returns in the red light). The goal of the new project is to develop an advanced biogeochemical profiling float.

The float work will focus on organic carbon dynamics in the upper ocean, including measurement of the color of available light, as well as proxies of particulate organic carbon, chlorophyll and colored dissolved material. Oxygen sensor data will be compared with the optics-based estimated productivity in water. The sensors will be powered by and attached to a Teledyne Webb Research APEX float with conductivity temperature and depth sensors.

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