Research Vessel David H. Peterson

Science Center Objects

The Research Vessel David H. Peterson begain service with the U.S. Geological Survey in 2015. Named after a founder of the Water Quality of San Francisco Bay Research and Monitoring Project, this vessel is a high-tech scientific platform for estuarine research.  Learn more about how the R/V David H. Peterson makes our research possible. 

Research Vessel David H. Peterson

Length: 66 feet | Beam: 24.5 feet | Draft: 5 feet
Aluminum hull, two 660-horsepower engines; top speed: 18 knots 


The R/V David H. Peterson was purchased by the USGS in 2015 and named after a founder of the San Francisco Bay measurement project. Dave Peterson was a marine geochemist who launched a USGS research project in 1968 with colleagues John Conomos, Fred Nichols, and Dave McCulloch. The first sampling cruise, from the 96-foot wooden yacht R/V Polaris, was conducted in spring of 1969. This USGS project, designed to learn how ecosystems at the land-sea interface are changed by human activities and climate variability, is one of the longest continuing research and observation efforts in a U.S. estuary.

R/V David H. Peterson at the Redwood City dock.

Research Vessel David H. Peterson moored at the Redwood City dock.

Upon USGS purchase, the R/V Peterson was extensively modified into a scientific platform for estuarine research. Adaptations included adding a water sampling system, davits and hydraulic winches, scientific instrumentation, and a laboratory. The 165-square-foot lab was built on the aft deck and fitted with scientific instrumentation, filtering apparatus, other equipment for water processing, and computers that interface with the instrumentation. From the lab, a multi-sensor water quality instrument package called a Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth (CTD) is deployed on an electro-mechanical sea cable that enables real-time data display and computer logging. Read more about what and how we measure on the Water Quality of San Francisco Bay Research and Monitoring Project Sampling Methods page.

The water pump is fixed at ~1.5 meter below the waterline and continuously supplies Bay water to multiple outlets in the lab sink for sampling, to oceanographic instruments, and to hoses on deck. During research cruises, data acquisition software integrates the oceanographic instrument output with geographical position (GPS).

The R/V Peterson is docked in Redwood City and sails monthly along a transect from the lower South Bay into the Sacramento River. USGS scientists collect and disseminate reliable, impartial, and timely data on the R/V Peterson to tease apart the complex patterns of estuarine water quality variability and better understand the Nation's estuarine resources.


Vessel History

The R/V Peterson was built by Kvichak Marine Industries in Seattle, Washington in 2001 for Alaska State Troopers and served as a patrol and rescue boat named Cama’i. It later became a charter vessel named Surveyor I that was used by various organizations, including the Army Corps of Engineers for surveying and benthic work in the Colombia River Bar, and Chevron for oil rig security patrol. After purchase in 2015, the R/V Peterson's first USGS research cruise was on August 18, 2016. 


R/V Peterson Cruise Schedule

Information on upcoming cruises is available on the R/V Peterson cruise schedule.