Liquid light

A few weeks back, I went to Yaquina Bay on the central Oregon coast. An arch bridge galloped across the bay and a couple hundred boats lined the piers. I was visiting an Oregon-based company called Wetlabs. The team there designs and builds instruments that use optics (that is, lenses and light) to measure all kinds of things in ocean water.

Corey Koch, a chemist and post-doc with Wetlabs, said, “We really can see the whole story of what’s going on in this ecosystem right here with this suite of sensors.”

I learned how light can say a lot about liquid. Have a listen, and check out the (new!) puzzler below.

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Slideshow

One big challenge of making sensors that stay in the ocean for a while is keeping critters from growing all over them. It's called biofouling.

The Yaquina Bay Bridge spans the patch of water where the Wetlabs Pontoon Boat of Science, a 27-foot catamaran, resides year round.

Wetlab company members encircle the 'moonpool' on the aft deck of the Pontoon Boat of Science where they suspend and test their instruments. L to R: Corey Koch, Ron Zaneveld, Alex Derr and Ian Walsh.

More Media

In this episode, Corey Koch explains that the sensor in Yaquina Bay registered more nitrate as the tide was flowing out. Why? And what do you think happened to the salinity measurement as the tide flowed in and out? Why? You can take a look at the data here.

One big challenge of making sensors that stay in the ocean for a while is keeping critters from growing all over them. It's called biofouling. Alex Derr and Ron Zaneveld of Wetlabs explain:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQuIFAxjexA

This Wetlabs sensor determines what kinds of phytoplankton (tiny plants of the ocean) are present in the ocean. Each type of phytoplankton reflects back a unique blend of colors when its hit with these 9 flashing lights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4o0WbbPFEEg

 

Education Standards

National Science Education Standards Grade 5 to 8

National Science Education Standards Grade 9 to 12

Ocean Literacy Principles

Send a Message

Send us your answer to the puzzler, your guess for the Sonic Stumper, or your questions for the Wetlabs team:

Liquid light

One Comment

  1. Great overview on sensors!! And the joys of dealing with biofouling….