Technology, Instrumentation and Measurement Systems

From its inception U.S. GLOBEC has acknowledged that its program-focusing on the coupling of physical processes to biological processes in ocean ecosystems at local to global scales-faces the problem of inadequate data. Existing data (and sometimes the instruments) are often inadequate (and inappropriate) to answer the questions posed by U.S. GLOBEC. Even were the data good, too often the biological and physical data are collected over different time and space scales, and satisfactory coupling cannot be achieved. Toward this end U.S. GLOBEC has held three meetings on the subject of new technologies, releasing three reports on the broad topics of molecular techniques, acoustics, and optics. They appear as U.S. GLOBEC reports Nos. 3, 4, and 8 (GLOBEC 1991, 1991, and 1993, respectively). Several research programs dealing with new technology are presently being conducted by U.S. GLOBEC supported investigators. There is little doubt that U.S. GLOBEC field studies will have to make use of these state-of-the-art technologies and methods more efficiently, and that this represents a significant technology-transfer problem that will have to be addressed. One way that education and training of scientists-on state-of-the-art technology, advancements in coupled biophysical modeling, or database and data management issues-could be accomplished is through targeted workshops.

An ultimate goal of the U.S. GLOBEC program is to provide the scientific foundation upon which a large-scale operational monitoring/modeling system can be pursued for a selected set of marine ecosystem variables. It is not clear whether existing technology can provide such global-scale monitoring. Some quantities connected to ecological processes in the ocean are already monitored on a global scale. Satellite sensors have provided new views of the ocean surface, both in terms of temperature and pigment distributions, but also of large scale flow dynamics, wind fields, and mesoscale variability. Perhaps remotely sensed data, to the extent that those readily measured parameters (e.g., chlorophyll) covary with plankton biomass, can provide equally exciting information about animal distributions. For example, remote detection of oceanographic fronts is already useful to fishermen. To accomplish this general objective however, we will need to continuously measure animal abundances and distribution-perhaps using a sparse global array of moored (or drifting) telemetering acoustic sensors-and integrate this data with remotely sensed variables by efficient data assimilation into appropriate models. This last type of monitoring will require advances in some technological aspects, in particular, data transmission and processing, and sensor interpretation.