A handful of Orange Coast College marine biology students were given the opportunity to collaborate with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and work with two state-of-the-art long range autonomous underwater vehicles named Tethys and Daphne.
The marine biology students were given hands-on experience in their field and helped Thomas Hoover, the engineer of the AUVs for the institute, with preparing the vehicles for deployment as well as retrieving the devices, which are being used as part of an algae bloom tracking project.
“MBARI and probably a dozen other organizations that do ocean research are trying to characterize how harmful algae blooms happen here,” Hoover said. “[The AUVs] are just a little piece of the whole puzzle.”
Hoover, visiting from Monterey, used the Orange Coast College School of Sailing and Seamanship as his base and students convened there to prepare for the three-hour mission through the harbor and out to sea.
Jason Carroll, a 21-year-old marine biology major, spent two days with Hoover — one day preparing and the other retrieving one of the AUVs for maintenance and to recharge.
“I always enjoy hands-on, it’s a lot more interesting than being in a classroom,” Carroll said. “It was really nice to go out there and see how it works — to see how a professional marine biologist would deploy this.”
Marine biology students Justin Danyleyko, 23, and Nicki Barbour, 19, also worked with Hoover and prepared Tethys, named in Greek for Poseidon’s wife, and the original AUV, for her voyage and then assisted in dragging the AUV out of the harbor for deployment in the ocean.
Shaped liked torpedoes, the AUVs contain a science package in the nose and a battery panel on a sliding rack which assists the AUV in descending, ascending and maintaining neutral buoyancy.
The AUVs use advancement in space conservation and weight distribution which allows them to spend long periods of time underwater without a support vessel following on the surface.
Hoover said that this enables scientists to track changes in the ocean without having to spend weeks at sea to retrieve and process data from short-term vehicles.
The data gathered while Tethys and Daphne are underway is sent to a satellite and can be accessed online. Google Earth can even be used to track their locations.
The collaboration gave the OCC students a chance to see the data gathering and engineering side of the marine biology field.
“It’s interesting to see how the engineering department and the scientific department work together in order to do this,” Carroll said.
The AUVs can be tracked at aosn.mbari.org/tethysdash/.