NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY - A demonstration of the full capabilities of Rutgers' advanced marine and coastal scientific data gathering system is attracting more than 200 ocean scientists to the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences (IMCS) Field Station in Tuckerton (Ocean County, N.J.), from July 12 to August 8. It is being hosted by Rutgers' IMCS, based at the university's Cook College campus in New Brunswick.
Known as HyCODE/COMOP (Coastal Ocean Modeling and Observation Program Hyperspectral Coastal Ocean Dynamics Experiment), the system employs a combination of satellites, planes, ships, radar, remote control underwater vehicles, and moored and towed data collection devices. This prototype that is operating in coastal waters off southern New Jersey is a model for systems planned elsewhere in the United States and it has captured the interest of scientists nationwide.
During the month, visiting scientists from some 25 research facilities at universities, corporations and the military will learn about and use a system designed to collect data on various ocean components and parameters -- flora and fauna, temperature variations, and wave height, direction and speed -- in a roughly 2,000 square mile section of ocean ranging from Barnegat to Ocean City.
"HyCODE/COMOP is both a scientific endeavor for the participating scientists and a demonstration of an integrated, sustained and comprehensive ocean observing system that is a model for other regions of the country to develop," said Michael F. Crowley, director of IMCS's Marine Remote Sensing Laboratory. "The whole project is like a beta test where we can work out the problems on the front end."
As a scientific endeavor some of the major goals will be to study ocean sediment and phytoplankton - the microscopic plants at the base of the ocean's food chain. Data on tides, wave height, speed and direction, temperature fronts where hot and cold water meet, and visibility at various depths will also be investigated. Based on the information collected, the scientists will test and develop computer models to predict ocean weather.
Ocean science groups from Maine to Alaska and from California to Florida are working on the development of ocean observation systems. "This could lead to a national federation of ocean observing systems that for the first time would give us an integrated and comprehensive picture of the ocean on both coasts," said Crowley.
In addition to its scientific importance, this data collected through such a system has relevance and value to the coastal economy because many people make their livelihoods directly or indirectly from the ocean, observed Crowley. "New Jersey has a sizeable recreational and tourist industry based on its ocean and shore areas. It also has a large commercial and recreational fishing industry," he said.
HyCODE/COMOP will use a variety of the latest in high tech instrumentation, all deployed from or near the Tuckerton field station. Included are five NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) satellites and five airplanes monitoring ocean temperature and collecting information for spectroscopic analysis of chemical elements and pollutants, a flotilla of more than a dozen vessels towing scientific instrument arrays, and six autonomous underwater vehicles (torpedo-like devices that swim about the ocean for days or weeks at a time collecting data).
A dozen moored data collectors also sit on the ocean floor gathering information, and surface radar at seven shore sites monitor the speed, direction and height of waves.
The month-long project is a large-scale extension of the existing Rutgers ocean data collection and monitoring system known as the Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory (COOL).
COOL advises sport fisherman, surfers, and divers on water conditions and also is designed to help the U.S. Coast Guard zero in on survivors in search and rescue missions. Shore water conditions data also are available from COOL's website, theCOOLroom.org.
A daily COOL report recently became a regular feature of Philadelphia's WCAU-TV Channel 10 News. In May, this NBC affiliate began providing shore visitors in the lower New Jersey and Philadelphia areas detailed COOL information on water temperatures from Sandy Hook to Cape May and beyond.
HyCODE/COMOP is funded by the Office of Naval Research and National Science Foundation, both based in Arlington, Va., and NOAA, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and based in Washington.