Drifter Newsletter #15
We have been working on an eco-friendly drogued drifter. It is a star-shaped drogue (made like some of the commercial surface drifters sold on the west coast) but now has a 1”-bamboo frame and cotton sails hung below on a long tether (typically 10m). It can have a natural mushroom flotation, bag-of-rocks ballast, and various components to take up the wave shock (subsurface wooden floats and/or sections of bungee tether). There is an extensive googledoc on this development which we can share with anyone interested. While we have only deployed one thus far in the real ocean and it only survived five days before running aground, we have built four more and plan to deploy them later this year. It can be rigged as a surface drifter as seen in the picture going into Nantucket Sound.
Another new development is in sensor packaging. We have rigged a solar powered RaspberryPI-Zero with multiple temperature sensors and have it reporting to the Iridium satellite system. The new AP3 transmitter is now two-way system so we can now remotely change the sampling interval on the drifter or ask it “where are you now?” at anytime.
Being busy with more deployments this year than any other year, we have not had much time for proposal writing. A few of our colleagues have submitted drifter proposals to NSF and other agencies but nothing is certain. One avenue we have finally began to pursue is foundations and/or corporations rather than gov’t agencies. Cassie Stymiest has recently joined us in a part time effort to find some funding in 2017.
One strategy we often use is to take advantage of NSF “outreach” requirement. Any physical oceanographic proposals that involve an observational component can easily fill this the 10% requirement to do outreach by having their local schools build drifters and then deploy them.
While we usually list several new partners that have joined our effort, this year the list this time would fill half a page. More than 50 high schools in New England were involved with building and deploying drifters in 2016. To see an up-to-date list, see the website: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/drifter
Annual review of transmitters and “decommissioning” process
Since the satellite service providers charge monthly fees regardless of whether we are using transmitters or not, it is very important that we “decommission” any transmitters that are either lost at sea or not being used in the coming year. You also need to be aware of how many transmissions you paid for and how many you have used. See this site to get an idea of where you stand with transmission use.
We still hope to improve our “lesson plan” options on the studentdrifters.org pages. Please send any ideas on how to improve that. (Note: The construction manuals there also need to be updated with all the new developments as noted above.) Part of our effort in 2016 was to hold a series of “drifter data workshops” in different areas of New England. Each session has (and will) include participation by teachers from several schools and each was invited to a googledoc on “what-to-do-with-drifter-data”. Teachers interested in joining this effort, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collaboration with Educational Passages
Each year we are connecting closer with EP based in Belfast Maine. While their 5’ unmanned sailboats are certainly not “drifters” they provides schools with a) another option to learn about the ocean, the wind, and, because these units move about twice the speed of a drifter and arrive in distant lands, b) exposure to other countries. We have been fortunate to work with them in developing a sensor package to install on board. With plenty of room on deck, we could install a solar panel that could not otherwise include on a drifter buoy. This development is also share in a googledoc.