Developing Florida’s Coastal Ocean Observing System

By Rick Cole, Founder and President, RDSEA International, Inc., St Pete Beach, FL, Scott Duncan, Founder and President, Navocean, Seattle, WA, and Florida
Published by Eco Magazine

Florida’s coastal regions are low, flat, heavily populated, barely above sea level and are extremely vulnerable to impact weather, pollution, acidification, algal blooms, and fisheries decline. All of which are aggravated by climate change and sea level rise. Sea level rise alone threatens to submerge thousands of square miles of coastal land, displacing millions of people, and hurricanes, once rare, are now an annual severe threat. Decisions made during this new decade will have life altering implications for Florida’s 20 million plus residents. What’s more, Florida’s location and shape define the flow of the Gulf Stream and Gulf of Mexico Loop Currents originating from Caribbean and Meso-American regions. Understanding the coastal ocean processes of Florida is crucial to understanding the oceanic processes of the entire region. National and State funding shortfalls and a divided plan continue to leave Florida’s ocean observing systems with gaps spanning hundreds of miles with limited measurement parameters in critical areas.

RDSEA International, Inc. (RDSEA, St Pete Beach, Florida) in partnership with Navocean (Seattle, WA, and Florida) have set forth plans for a comprehensive “Florida Coastal Ocean Observing System” (FLCOOS™) beginning along the east coast of Florida’s coastal/littoral zone and wrapping around the south and west coasts to fill data gaps to the Alabama border. The backbone of this proposed FLCOOS™ system is an array of Coastal Warning and Rapid Response Data Density (Sea-WARRDD) observing stations, comprised of RDSEA Coastal Hybrid Buoy Systems and Navocean Nav2 Automated Surface Vehicles (ASV) working in tandem. The FLCOOS™ Sea-WARRDD array will provide capacity for high quality (surface, water-column, bottom) sensor data with near-real-time telemetry to stakeholders and fill gaps to existing monitoring efforts, addressing Florida’s pressing needs.

FLCOOS™ will provide near-real-time coastal metocean+ data for: Government agencies, academics, marine science partners and stakeholders to assess ocean processes. It is increasing the region’s in-situ footprint, advancing new ocean technologies, contributing to coastal flooding/sea level rise and hazards, and is feeding into NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) and Hurricane Center missions. It also supports a vast number of activities around County emergency management decision-making, tourism, marine recreation, beach safety, maritime operations and navigation, U.S. Coast Guard offshore security issues, search and rescue, water-quality, harmful algal bloom (HABs) monitoring, human and ecosystem health, spills, ocean-acidification studies, estuary and river coupling, intrusion/inundation, fisheries biology, and enhances education outreach. Data also adds focused in-situ input to existing and new regional modelling efforts.

The FLCOOS™ measurement plan includes monitoring: • Sea Level Rise: Waves (height, speed, frequency, direction), currents, coastal erosion, sediment, nutrient and pollution event plume tracking. • Impact Weather: Barometric pressure, wind (speed/direction/gust), sea-surface temperature, solar radiation, relative humidity/dewpoint, wave spectra, water column density (conductivity, temperature, depth – CTD), and currents measurements. • Mangroves, Seagrass and Reef Restoration: Ocean processes modeling, anoxia, and pollution tracking. • Acidification and Oxygen Depletion: pCO₂ and O₂ measurements. • Water-Quality/Red Tide: Harmful Algal Bloom (HABs) detection, tracking/prediction, and mitigation support. • Fisheries: Acoustic hydrophone recordings for fish tracking and population assessment. • Search and Rescue: Detailed waves, weather/meteorology, and ocean currents updates to rescue crews. • Regional Modelling: Ocean model ensemble time-series made available for input/output.

See full article here, or online at Eco Magazine

Frontiers in Marine Science, 04 October 2019

Coastal Harmful Algae Bloom Monitoring via a Sustainable, Sail-Powered Mobile Platform

Jordon S. Beckler 1*, Ethan Arutunian 2, Tim Moore 3, Bob Currier 4, Eric Milbrandt 5, and Scott Duncan 2

1 – Ocean Technology Research Program, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, FL, United States,
2 – Navocean, Inc., Seattle, WA, United States,
3 – Ocean Process Analysis Laboratory, Durham, NH, United States,
4 – Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, United States
5 – SCCF Marine Laboratory, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Sanibel, FL, United States

Harmful algae blooms (HABs) in coastal marine environments are increasing in number and duration, pressuring local resource managers to implement mitigation solutions to protect human and ecosystem health. However, insufficient spatial and temporal observations create uninformed management decisions. In order to better detect and map blooms, as well as the environmental conditions responsible for their formation, long-term, unattended observation platforms are desired. In this article, we describe a new cost-efficient, autonomous, mobile platform capable of accepting several sensors that can be used to monitor HABs in near real time. The Navocean autonomous sail-powered surface vehicle is deployable by a single person from shore, capable of waypoint navigation in shallow and deep waters, and powered completely by renewable energy. We present results from three surveys of the Florida Red Tide HAB (Karenia brevis) of 2017–2018. The vessel made significant progress toward waypoints regardless of wind conditions while underway measurements revealed patches of elevated chl. a likely attributable to the K. brevis blooms as based on ancillary measurements. Measurements of colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) and turbidity provided an environmental context for the blooms. While the autonomous sailboat directly adds to our phytoplankton/HAB monitoring capabilities, the package may also help to ground-truth satellite measurements of HABs if careful validation measurements are performed. Finally, several other pending and future use cases for coastal and inland monitoring are discussed. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a sail-driven vessel used for coastal HAB monitoring.

Full Article Here


Beyond the Gulf: Real-Time AUV Tracking

Posted: January 30, 2019

The GCOOS data portal used to track Gulf glider missions in real-time has proven so popular and easy-to-use by glider operators that we’re now tracking other autonomous ocean-going vehicles in other locales. We’ve tracked a Navocean Nav2 Sail and Solar ASV being used to gather data in the Banana River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast.

Navocean and Turner Designs teamed up with FAU/HBOI researcher Dr. Jordon Beckler and 4Ocean to demonstrate mobile fluorometer data collection in support of new techniques to research red tide and other toxic algae blooms — including HABs in Lake Okeechobee — through the deployment of the Navocean “Nav2” vehicle, the first autonomous sail-driven surface vehicle to be used for inland algae monitoring.

Read full article here.


Autonomous sailboat deployed to find red tide bloom

December 26, 2017

Pine Island Eagle

An autonomous sailboat was launched from Algiers Beach to map and take measurements of where the red tide is located and what kind of environment it feeds off of to better understand the bloom that has been near Sanibel since Thanksgiving weekend.

Dr. Jordon Beckler, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium program manager of ocean technology research, Gabriel Rey, intern for Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and Navocean Owner and Chief Designer Scott Duncan.  “This is a company that we are working with, Navocean. They actually made the boat. We are just sort of the scientist consultants on it. We are trying to promote this awesome tool and trying to show how useful it is for our research. You could put any sensor on this sailboat that you want,” Dr. Jordon Beckler, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium program manager of ocean technology research, said.

Before the sailboat was launched Navocean Owner & Chief Designer Scott Duncan did some tests from his iPad to make sure everything was working correctly. A chart on his device showed where they were located near Algiers Beach, and the six locations the sailboat would cover.

“We can reprogram its course,” he said of the fourth generation prototype. “We hope it will go out for three to four days. We are building up to 30 days and 60 days.”

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Laboratory Director Eric Milbrandt said the neat thing is they can see everything in real time.

“You send out a ship, a ship costs $20,000 a day, whereas this is much lower cost. You can find the patches and study them a lot more readily. And matching up with the satellite imagery is really important as far as telling people where it is and what the probability that it will kill fish and have respiratory irritation,” Milbrandt said.

read more here.


Westport WA Crab Feasibility Study for NOAA/NRCC Oct 30, 2017

This is a feasibility study using a Navocean ASV to measure detection ranges, ping quality, and the ability to identify individual acoustic tags which will be used for crab tracking in open-ocean conditions such as Bristol Bay, AK.

Navocean will deploy the pingers as well as deploy, pilot and recover the ASV. Aim is to utilize a rough weather window to simulate weather and acoustic conditions in Bristol Bay in summer: 6-10ft ocean swells and 15-25kt winds.