What are ocean observatories?
Ocean observatories are systems that can take measurements in the ocean, on the seafloor, or even subsea (from within drilled holes) and relay data back to researchers and other users in real-time or in some cases with a delay. They relay data either via submarine telecom cables like those used for trans-Atlantic phone calls or via buoy to satellite transmissions.
These systems can include buoys tethered to the seafloor with sensors along the tether line, seafloor landers, and rovers. Floats and autonomous underwater vehicles (in other words swimming sensor systems) can also provide important data and add spatial context.
The kinds of sensors ESONET is considering include:
Seismometers, which measure earth motions such as during an earthquake,
Salinity, temperature, and ocean current sensors,
Sediment traps which look like up-side-down traffic cones that collect sinking plankton and organic carbon, other aspects of the food web using, and
Time lapse-cameras measuring animal activity and behaviour.
Observatories are using these and other sensors together in away that allows important scientific questions to be answered more effectively.
Education and Outreach
ESONET NoE operates a website with educational games on ocean observatories.
EuroSITES also operates a website with educational comparisons of activities at different sites, what kinds of changes are seen over time, and diaries of those working on observatory science.
How to make an observatory
Observatory designs need to be done so that the different parts work together as seamlessly as possible. Much like you can connect your digital camera to almost any computer, observatory designers are working to make sensors with a plug-and-work functionality, so that when instruments are plugged into a seafloor network they are automatically registered and begin sending data.