Science Diary: Underwater Discoveries – Testing
“We’re here at a test pool where we’re going to be testing our optical instrument for measuring the microbial environment and, in some sense, the gooiness of the ocean.”
Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Jules Jaffe is a Research Oceanographer at the Scripps Institution. He’s preparing for a research voyage where he’s be hoping to learn more about the microbes living in the ocean.
“And, we’re going to take that instrument out in the ocean and we’re going to measure something. And so we had to design it, we had to make it, we have to take it out in a ship. Which can be challenging. There can be lots of weird stuff going on that affects our instruments.”
Before they take the instrument out to sea, Jules Jaffe and his team try it out in a pool.
“I’ve described this thing as a Volkswagen bus turned up on its side. Right now it’s hanging up in the air. And underneath it is the part that has the laser, and it has the camera.”
The laser beam scans ahead of the instrument while the camera records the way the laser light is scattered by particles in the water, providing clues about the water’s gooiness, its viscosity.
“And right now we’re going to lower this thing into the pool and see what the laser pattern looks like underwater. So, let’s go for it Fernando! So, there it goes down into the pool. Well, the laser is still on. That must mean that the system is working pretty good.”
Ocean microbes create about half of the world’s oxygen, but very little is known about their lifecycles or ecology. Leaning more about the viscosity of their environment is a first step in understanding how quickly the microbes can produce oxygen. Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.