Posts Tagged ‘RU27 Atlantic Crossing Preflight’

Mapping Scarlet’s Temperature Track

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

So Colin and I sat down and talked for a little about Scarlet and he mentioned how he simply asked Scott if there were any opportunities to work with CTD’s, which caught his interest during the Ocean Methods class.  To his excitement, Scott said there was and Colin began working on CTD data for RU27 throughout the summer and the semester.  His tasks changed throughout the mission but he recalls the whole temperature map that he and Abe made near the end of the fall 2009 semester.  He tracked the thermocline throughout the semester and compared that with to see if there were any explanations for present anomalies.  Occasionally he and others would see a slight difference in the Yo profiles, most of which occurred early in the summer but that ended up being just some organism in the Atlantic.

Anyway, Scott thought it would be cool to have a map showing the changes in the thermocline with respect to the seasons and location in the Atlantic.  So Colin got to work on trying to put together an entire trans-Atlantic section of temperature plots using MATLAB.  He explained MATLAB as one of the most confusing programs he ever tried learning (and is still learning).  He mentioned John Kerfoot as a big help with it and also John Wilkins helped him and Abe make the plots clearer.  Other students also helped him along the way that have been using MATLAB longer than he had.  He recalled working on the plots in the COOLroom when RU27 was actually being recovered at 4 in the morning and also whenever he had time on his trip in Spain.  He said he didn’t get much done there because there was just too much excitement.  Eventually during finals week, he and Abe came up with a month by month trans-Atlantic temperature section of Scarlet’s track.  Below are a few cross-section plots for RU27's path:

Colin describes the mission as something he’ll always remember and claims that he really enjoyed working with everyone involved.  Also his advice to me, and any undergraduate looking for opportunities, is to just simply ask.  Get to know your professors and always stay in contact because if you’re really interested, there will always be something available.

-Chris and Colin

Nina, Pinta, Santamaria, RU27 Glider

Monday, October 4th, 2010

--Rachel Plunkett & Eric Taylor

Colin Evans:

Colin has been working on projects in the COOLroom over the last two years, the most memorable of course being the RU27 Trans-Atlantic mission.  While there were exciting things happening along every step of RU27’s journey, Colin will never forget his trip to Spain following the glider’s long-awaited arrival.

It all started when Scott sent an email out to Colin, Dakota, and Nilson asking them all to meet up in the
COOL room.   He remembers thinking they must really be in trouble for something if Scott had to call them in like that.  To his surprise, Scott really just wanted to tell them... they were going to Spain.

The last night of the glider mission, everyone gathered in the COOLroom anxiously awaiting the news over the radio that the glider had been retrieved safely across the Atlantic.  They expected that they would get it around midnight, but they all ended up staying till about 4AM when they finally received news.  Then, it was off to Spain.

Colin recalled walking up to this amazing castle in Baiona and just stepping back a moment to take in the stunning view.  This is the castle they stayed at during their time in Spain by the way (LUCKY!)

There were lots of different people gathered in Baiona; many were partners involved in the trans-Atlantic mission, and several were interested followers of the glider mission who were just excited to catch a glimpse of the famous RU27 and learn more about it.

 As we all looked through the pictures, it was really great to see so many young faces gathered around and seeming so interested in the glider.  It shows how the research done here at Rutgers by both faculty and students, not only fulfills a scientific purpose; but can also provide students all over the world with great learning resources and get them excited about ocean science.

Another cool thing that went down in Baione was the ceremony commemorating the glider mission as a groundbreaking frontier.  They hung a memorial plaque right next to the plaque which"IN COMMEMORATION OF THE ARRIVAL TO BAIONA OF THE 'SCARLET KNIGHT' 516 YEARS AFTER THE PINTA CARABEL" honors the voyage of Christopher Columbus aboard the famous vessel, “La Pinta”.  It reads, "In commemoration of the arrival to Baiona of the 'Scarlet Knight' 516 years after the Pinta Carabel"

Colin has continued to work with the gliders since, and has even taken a greater interest in programming with MATlab.

Recovering a Glider Among Ships

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Shannon was involved in the RUCOOL Room quite frequently and she was around during the mission from New Jersey to Halifax with RU15. She was one of the pilots on this mission and then went onto work on RU17's transatlantic trip, where she worked on designing, building, and piloting. After RU17 was lost she traveled to the Azores Islands where she met with Oceanography University members. From these people she learned much about the mission and made connections that would help with RU27's mission. Not only this, but she was part of configuring the retrieval of the glider with all of the ship traffic outside Spain. Clearly she did her job since the RU27 was recovered safely.

Of this, Shannon said her favorite part was when she was piloting the glider with Dave K from the COOL Room. She took part in plotting the path the glider would take and they were even able to do this from the comfort of their apartments. She is extremely proud of how much she was involved with RU27's mission, from building and piloting the glider, which can be seen as a historical mission being the first robot to cross the Atlantic with priceless information being gathered the entire time. I’m sure she can connect the work she has done to many expeditions in the future that will gather data that will give us a better understanding of the world and how everything coincides. Possibly even part of future solutions to problems we are facing today.

Shannon over the past few years has been working on missions for the university. She has helped in piloting RU27's mission across the Atlantic, to where they reached Spain successfully. She also helped figure out the weight and balance of the glider to make sure that it was right where it should be. The course of this mission took several months where she devoted time on the weekends as well to help pilot Scarlet. She would look around the web for certain websites to figure out the best flight patterns to get through the ocean, without getting into any problems with Scarlet. The main objective for this was to make sure that Scarlet wouldn’t get into any problems with local fishing ships and or nets that might be deployed, that would cause the mission to become a failure. From viewing the video over this past weekend, Shannon has put a lot of time and effort into making sure that Scarlet was safe and secure. She is a great researcher, hard worker, and a great pilot/navigator when it comes to missions.

Shannon, John, and Bill

Chris Filosa’s Transatlantic Success

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

My mentor, Chris Filosa was in a RUGlider class just as we are but during his sophomore year and has continued to stay in the class ever since. His most fond memory was when he was working with his mentor Dave Kaminsky for RU27 under the name of Team Google Earth".

Mission: RU27 to Cross Atlantic Ocean

"Being that Google Earth has become a primary visual data compilation source for the Rutgers Glider Fleet, our team’s mission has three main goals. Our first goal is to make data downloading, reading, and understanding easy for the general public, and our second goal is to organize and keep data up-to-date for the glider and science teams. Our final goal is to work to unlock and advance the capabilities of Google Earth for data manipulation, visualization, and application."

-Dave Kaminsky, Chris Filosa, Jason Werrell

They used Google Earth which is a great way to visually see the data you want on a big picture. They learned how to add overlays over Google Earth to show the gliders projected path. They also learned how to accurately place data and the path overlays in the right spot on the map, so it wasn't just a prediction of "Well, it kinda went this way then up then down then up a lot". They spent time using GoogleEarth on the large monitors in the COOL room and waiting for Ru27 to phone in to get it's coordinates. They used that location and decided the next path which was easier to fly through (less resistance). Using coordinates, waypoints, and GoogleEarth, they closely depicted the actual direction of RU27's path.

Conflict: One of the biggest challenges was that RU27 had acquired a pickup of lots of orgasnisms and debris on its way across. Gooseneck barnacles and algae had attached itself to the glider and make it difficult because it would alter the flight pattern. Another challenge was that the current would flow in a clockwise direction(elevated gyre) or a counterclockwise direction(depressed gyre), so in order to fly over your preferred area, you would have to program the glider to move a little bit north or south over the gyres to reach its preferred path.

RU27 had lots of recorded data including:

CTD Samples

-CTD samples consisted of conductivity, temperature and density which would then give you salinity.


-CHL-A is found in cyanobacteria, Green Algae, and Red Algae, and there are very common along the atlantic ocean. Therefore, this makes it the best chlorophyll type to analyze.

Sea Surface Height

-Cyclonic(clockwise rotation) and Anticyclonic (counterclockwise rotation) were like whirlpools that act as powerful forces that gliders have to combat against.  Important because you don't want your glider flying in a continuous circle.

-Sea Surface Currents/Sea Surface Temperature

-Sea surface currents measure motion by  physical, biological or chemical variables. Sea surface temperature is used to track movement of oceanic currents. Also used to compare other data types for confirmation of accuracy.

Conclusion: This whole mission started in Chris's fall semester and lasted seven months. Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria discovered that we had used our satellite imagery for half way across the Atlantic, and teamed up with the Rutgers oceanographic team and sent us 5 different data imagery forms for the coast of Spain and Africa that Rutgers used to pilot RU27 on the most practical path. RU27 was a leap for gliders, and was sent across the entire Atlantic Ocean. It was a great accomplishment for Chris Filosa and his peers because this was the first time it had ever been done before. Everyone knew that it was a challenge, but since everybody did their part and worked hard, it worked out fine with no mater disruptions. It's cool knowing that we can now send gliders out, where humans could go, but without putting them in harm's way.

Testing New Waters

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Hello all,

This week's temperature data has continued to show us that the thermocline position is steadily moving downward. Last week, we saw the thermocline starting at slightly above 40 meters where as this week we see it starting at just below 60 meters. The thermocline does not appear to be as strong as it had been in the past weeks. As far as the glider is concerned, these changes in the thermocline will not reflect in a change in the flight pattern. Below is a plot of this weeks temperature data.

Currently, we are constructing a trans-Atlantic contour plot using the data from RU27's CTD casts throughout her journey. We are trying to find a way to insert this data into Google Earth in a 3d visual model. We recently came across Google Earth 5 and have high hopes that it will be able to support our massive contour plot. We will keep you updated weekly on the changes in the thermocline position and strength as we strive to create our 3d model.

Colin & Abe

Focusing on the Thermocline

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Hey everyone,

Over the past couple of days, the most noticeable change in the water column has been the thermocline position and strength.  On October 24th, the temperature change within the 35-80 meter displacement was very gradual.  There was no large change in decreasing water temperature within a small distance, as we have seen in the past.  However, this trend tends to fluctuate and it is difficult to predict how the thermocline will appear in the next couple of days; the plots shown below are the most recent example.  The CTD data from October 26th shows a large decrease in water temperature within barely 20 meters.


water column temp.-oct-26

As of this past week, bottom water temperatures have been hovering just above 13.5 degrees C. and there has been little change.  In addition, battery life is not too much of a concern relative to time because we have just below 50% left and bottom water temperatures do not seem to pose any threat either.  The main issue is dealing with the bio-fouling and slowing down barnacle growth. Staying below the thermocline, as well as the pycnocline, helps with limiting biology growth because we would be avoiding most of the nutrients.  Since the thermocline is constantly changing, our group will continuously keep track of the thermocline positions, as well as strength.  Also, we are continuing to look for some sort of archive of past underwater data for Spanish waters but the search continues.  RU27 is approaching the finish line and each group is working hard to get her to cross it.

-Colin and Abe

“Blood clots, I thought we were dealing with barnacles?!”

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Hello All. 

On the surface, human beings and barnacles don't really seem to have much in common. Sure, we share a kingdom with them, but they're crustaceans and we're homo sapiens. We've evolved to possess the beautiful gift and curse of consciousness and barnacles, well, they've really perfected the art of sticking to things. 

The unexpected biological link between humans and barnacles becomes illuminated by answering a simple question of fluid properties. What fluids, besides barnacle cement, have the capacity to coagulate within a seawater composition? The list is short: blood and semen. Why is this significant to barnacle research? Human blood and barnacle cement don't seem to be related phenotypically (Brian's word), or aesthetically (my word), but genotypically, they are more similar than either of us imagined. 

When we suffer an injury resulting in an open wound, whether a cut by knife or a simple knee scrape, we as a humans rely on Human Factor XIII to form a cross-linked meshwork of fibrin to coagulate the blood seeping from the wound. Human Factor XIII is an important element in the stablization of the meshwork of fibrin, which are agrigation of thrombin, the initial coagulate protein. Human Factor XIII increases the stability of the previously existing fibrin-thrombin matrix, connecting thrombin monomers to fibrin monomers across polymer chains, as the picture below illustrates.

Human Factor XIII stabilizing a protein chain (source: Wikipedia)

Human Factor XIII stabilizing a protein chain (source: Wikipedia)

 HFXIII is that thin blue line connecting the blue dots from one polymer chain (one of the linear chains running horizontally), to the little red dot situated diagonally below the big blue in a polymer chain running parallel to the one above it. The sequence of the coagulate proteins (i.e. the thrombin, fibrin polymer chains) allows for cross-linking to occur on a diagonal plane, creating a meshwork that reinforces the bonds existing vertically between the polymer chains. 

Basically, HFXIII weaves the parallel polymer chains into a kind of protective biochemical fabric. And tada! human blood clots.

A hot new article in Science Daily, Super Sticky Barnacle Glue Cures Like Clots, suggests that the amino acid sequence making up the cross-linking protein, Human Factor XIII, is remarkably similar, and in some regions, identical, to the adhesive proteins present in barnacle cement. Fascinating stuff! For Rittschof, Dickinson, and Wahl, the researchers conducting the study, this means that barnacle adhesion could potentially be classified as a form of "wound healing." 

The biological connection between the parasite plaguing our poor Scarlet and our own bodies really hit Brian and myself pretty hard. We began to re-evaluate the way we had been approaching barnacle-fouling possibilities. Our entire focus on anti-fouling prior had revolved around aggressive chemical compositions of surface coatings. Our main question had been: How could we alter the chemical composition of the surface of the glider? But Human Factor XIII introduced the delicacy of chemical composition into our discussion. If one of the most important factors of barnacle adhesion also exists in a similar biochemical system in our own bodies, chemical composition seems like a delicate thing to be toying with. The biological consequences are now prevalent in our minds...

That said, here's our list for possible chemical bio-fouling techniques as of the moment. They don't look promising:

- urea

- monochloroacetic acid

-  polydimethylsiloxane

- trypsin-like serine protease inhibitor

Each of these possibilities is unsustainable for their own reasons. Obviously, we cannot coat the glider in urea and send it off into the ocean. Monochloroacetic acid is another liquid substance, and a halocarbon, which tends to be insoluable in water, but is also toxic. Polydimethylsiloxane used to be applied to boat bottom in oil form, but is also highly toxic to the marine environment. And a trypsin-like serine protease inhibitor would prevent the polymerization of fibrin into the first matrix of the diagram above, but couldn't possible be crafted into a material that could be coated on the glider to serve as a bio-fouling agent. So, chemically, we are at a standstill.

But, altering the topography of the surface of the glider itself, not the chemical composition of the coating necessarily, could be a viable bio-fouling option. 

Development and Testing of Hierarchically Wrinkled Coatings for Marine Anti-Fouling

This study suggests that altering the topographical surface of a vessel (or vehicle) could be an effective way to prevent bio-fouling up to eighteen months. But, Brian and myself are uncertain as to whether or not this topographical manipulation would actually be something that could be applied to a glider, given the potential drag and piloting issues that could result from a topographically hierarchical surface.

Scott, Oscar, Josh, anyone?? We went on a feverish search for our mentors to ask them about the possible benefits/drawbacks to an option like this, but everyone had mysteriously vanished... very Nancy Drew mystery novel.


Until next time,

Amanda and Brian


[thanks to Kunal for sending me the Science Daily article!]

Pesky barnacles evade our attempt to scale them!

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Friday, the biology student research group got together in the COOL Room for a meeting. The prospective outcome of the meeting was to have been the successful scaling of the JPEG provided to us by Tina, showing both the growth on the tail and around the sealing rings of RU27. We were excited. Finally, something tangible to say about these disasterous parasites: their size. Knowing the approximate size of the Lepas species would allow us to go ahead and narrow down our species list, speculate growth rate, and send sample measurements to barnacle experts. 

Unfortunately, the images we were provided with show Scarlet on an angle! The team sat around the long table in the lab pondering this unexpected conundrum. What on earth were we to do? The tail on the image is larger than the tail on the gliders itself, and the depth of perspective of the glider in the image is not proportional! The ring closest to the tail is a different size from the ring closest to the nose in the image, making scaling of the glider very difficult. Very quickly, the group realized that understanding barnacle size was a trickier business than first anticipated. We are, uh, 'biologists,' not mathematicians, and so, accounting for this angle would be a difficult task indeed. The consensus that we came to (after seeking advice from Chip in the glider lab) was that it would be much easier to try to procure another image from the original footage; one that illustrates the glider from a direct profile (where the rings are all proportional to one another), rather than attempting a complicated equation.

A glitch in our plans, certainly. But the meeting was not entirely a failure. After doing a bit of light reading in the books we checked out from the library last week, we stumbled upon a key factor in barnacle physiology, the specific characteristic that promotes adhesion to surfaces like Scarlet: the cement gland. This gland secretes a protein compound that bonds with the substrate, in our case the surface of RU27 in particular, forming disulfide bonds.

disulfide bond

Once formed, these stable bonds are not easily broken and are insoluble in water. Very convenient for a barnacle catching a ride on a whale, or a turtle, or an AUV, but a dangerous reality for Scarlet. As Scott has been posting in recent days, Scarlet's vertical velocity is declining rapidly, steadily, however graceful.

More on Cement Gland

Our current task, aside from accurately scaling a more suitable JPEG, is to find surface materials that inhibit disulfide bonding. But scaling is the priority. The quicker we can size these crustaceans, the quicker we can compare growth rate to vertical velocity. I guess we better get moving...


Side note: We are also trying to checkout the bibliography you've provided for us this weekend, Antonios. Thank you.


Cheers, everyone.


Amanda [...Brian, Gina, and Montana]