DEIMOS joins MARS and its satellite of instruments on seafloor

March 18, 2009

The planet Mars has a moon named Deimos, so it seems only appropriate that the ocean observatory MARS in Monterey Bay have its own DEIMOS. This DEIMOS, however, is an underwater acoustic package designed to monitor movements of fish and zooplankton.

MARS, which stands for Monterey Accelerated Research System, consists of a node the size of two compact cars that serves as both a power strip and a high-speed internet connection for scientific instruments. Connected to the California coast by a 35-mile-long cable carrying power and data, MARS went live late last fall 3,000 feet below the surface in Monterey Bay.

Most recently connected to the node is the University of Washington-designed DEIMOS, which stands for Deepwater Echo Integrating Marine Observatory System. DEIMOS uses an echo sounder to transmit and receive an acoustic signal used to reveal what's in a narrow cone of water above the instrument. DEIMOS can discern everything from zooplankton to whales.

DEIMOS was connected to MARS Feb. 28. For the past two weeks John Horne, UW associate professor of aquatic and fisheries sciences and leader of the DEIMOS project, has been able to sit in his office in Seattle and see the data as it is collected.

Scientists need to know the density, distribution and dynamics of what's living in the water to understand how ocean life responds to tides, nutrients upwelling from deeper waters, storms, the changing seasons or El Niño events, Horne says. That information can then be used to investigate effects of long-term environmental changes.

It's not new for biologists to use echo sounders. What's new is that Horne's package can be controlled from land and operate far longer than those relying on batteries, thanks to the power supplied via MARS. Horne said it took more than six car batteries to provide power for one week to an echo sounder he mounted on a buoy for a past project. To operate for a year on the seafloor, one can't very well deploy an echo sounder package and 312 car batteries.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute operates MARS as a test platform for the National Science Foundation's Ocean Observatories Initiative. Researchers use MARS to test instruments before they are hooked up to deep-sea observatories off the U.S. and elsewhere.

MARS enables existing instruments to be used in new ways and the invention of entirely new instruments. Horne says DEIMOS shows what's possible, even without a lot of money.

Horne and UW research scientists David Barbee and Dick Kreisberg did the design and engineering using off-the-shelf components costing roughly $14,500. The package includes a Simrad Fisheries echo sounder - similar to what fishermen use to locate fish - on loan from Kongsberg Underwater Technology, which has its U.S. headquarters in Lynnwood, Wash. The whole package had to meet certain size and weight restrictions, for example weighing less than 300 pounds, to be deployed by ROV Ventana, one of the institute's remotely operated vehicles.

In addition to the restrictions on size, the UW team faced other challenges such as working out Internet protocols to communicate with the institute's computer system and navigate firewalls without compromising security, Horne says.

DEIMOS emits an acoustic signal that spreads out in a cone shape from the 16.5-inch diameter transducer to a 115-yard circular area at the surface of the ocean and has been designed to not disturb marine mammals or other animals that are being monitored. Look for more about DEIMOS at http://www.acoustics.washington.edu/.

Horne says he plans to coordinate acoustic data from DEIMOS with what is being recorded by a special low-light video camera called Eye-in-the-Sea that is also connected to MARS. Developed under the direction of marine biologist Edie Widder, the system records deep-sea animals in the area.
-end-
Funding for DEIMOS was provided by the UW School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences. Horne's group received expertise and help from Tim McGinnis and Bruce Howe at the UW's Applied Physics Laboratory and Tor Bjorklund at UW's Oceanography Technical Services.

For more information: Horne, 206-221-6890, jhorne@u.washington.eduAvailable to news media: Images found at http://uwnews.org/article.asp?articleID=48087, one high resolution image of DEIMOS being deployed on the seafloor and video. Contact Sandra Hines, 206-543-2580, shines@u.washington.edu

University of Washington

Related Mars Articles from Brightsurf:

Water on ancient Mars
A meteorite that originated on Mars billions of years ago reveals details of ancient impact events on the red planet.

Surprise on Mars
NASA's InSight mission provides data from the surface of Mars.

Going nuclear on the moon and Mars
It might sound like science fiction, but scientists are preparing to build colonies on the moon and, eventually, Mars.

Mars: Where mud flows like lava
An international research team including recreated martian conditions in a low-pressure chamber to observe the flow of mud.

What's Mars made of?
Earth-based experiments on iron-sulfur alloys thought to comprise the core of Mars reveal details about the planet's seismic properties for the first time.

The seismicity of Mars
Fifteen months after the successful landing of the NASA InSight mission on Mars, first scientific analyses of ETH Zurich researchers and their partners reveal that the planet is seismically active.

Journey to the center of Mars
While InSight's seismometer has been patiently waiting for the next big marsquake to illuminate its interior and define its crust-mantle-core structure, two scientists, have built a new compositional model for Mars.

Getting mac and cheese to Mars
Washington State University scientists have developed a way to triple the shelf life of ready-to-eat macaroni and cheese, a development that could have benefits for everything from space travel to military use.

Life on Mars?
Researchers from Hungary have discovered embedded organic material in a Martian meteorite found in the late 1970s.

New evidence of deep groundwater on Mars
Researchers at the USC Arid Climate and Water Research Center (AWARE) have published a study that suggests deep groundwater could still be active on Mars and could originate surface streams in some near-equatorial areas on Mars.

Read More: Mars News and Mars Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.