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Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center Participates in the 2nd Annual Woods Hole Science Stroll

The USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center’s Gas Hydrates, Sediment Transport, and Seafloor Mapping groups provided hands-on demonstrations under the USGS tent at the Science Stroll.

This article is part of the October-December 2016 issue of the Sound Waves newsletter

Image of Bill Waite talking to 2 boys at the Woods Hole Science Stroll
Bill Waite, Gas Hydrates Group Research geophysicist, discussing methane gas hydrates with prospective scientists under the USGS tent at the Science Stroll. Photo credit: Andrea Toran

Water Street in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, was host to the second annual Woods Hole Science Stroll on August 6, 2016, offering participants a variety of opportunities to explore interactive displays, tour a research vessel, take part in science demonstrations, and engage with local scientists from 12 science centers, institutions, and organizations.

The USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center’s Gas Hydrates, Sediment Transport, and Seafloor Mapping groups provided hands-on demonstrations under the USGS tent at the Science Stroll. The Gas Hydrates Project staff had samples of methane hydrate (an ice-like solid composed of methane and water molecules) and a laser-based gas analyzer for measuring greenhouse gas emissions from methane and other sources. Methane hydrate is thought to account for up to 50% of the world’s mobile carbon, and the global abundance of methane hydrate has led to ongoing research by the USGS and others into the role of methane hydrate as a potential energy resource and as a component of environmental change. In spite of its natural abundance, methane hydrate is only stable at moderately high pressure and low temperature, so few people have seen or handled it. At the Science Stroll, participants handled methane hydrate made by Laura Stern (USGS, Menlo Park) and preserved in liquid nitrogen. Participants watched as a laser-based gas analyzer measured carbon content of methane gas produced from a sample of degrading methane hydrate as well as from carbon dioxide in their breath. John Pohlman and Michael Casso built the USGS gas analyzer in Woods Hole. Along with Lee-Gray Boze, they discussed deployments of the tool in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans and the North Sea and how they’re using the data collected to determine if warming oceans are stimulating more or less greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.

The Sediment Transport group, staffed by Tarandeep Kalra, had computer-generated simulations from the three-dimensional COAWST (Coupled Ocean Atmosphere Wave Sediment Transport) modeling system. Results from the COAWST modeling system show efficacy in capturing the processes that cause ocean circulation, sediment transport, and coastal erosion. Tarandeep answered questions and demonstrated how the modeling system works to predict hurricanes.   

In addition to the popular and well-attended displays by the Gas Hydrates and Sediment Transport groups, the SEABOSS (SEABed Observation and Sampling System) display, courtesy of the Seafloor Mapping Group, was quite a crowd pleaser! The SEABOSS was designed by Woods Hole staff for rapid, inexpensive, and effective collection of seabed images and sediment samples in coastal and inner-continental shelf regions. The SEABOSS has video and still cameras, depth sensors, light sources, and a sediment sampler, all attached to a stainless steel frame that is deployed through an A-frame using a power winch. Seth Ackerman, Seafloor Mapping Group geologist and SEABOSS navigation specialist, provided a live, interactive demonstration of underwater video capabilities in the shallow waters off the seawall in front of the USGS display tent. USGS Principal Investigator and marine geologist Laura Brothers was also on hand to share information about how sediment sampling, photography, and video of the seafloor are critical components of the group’s operations, and how they use the data from a variety of sources like the SEABOSS to conduct research.

A man stands smiling for the camera, in front of a display set out under a tent at a fair.
Tarandeep Kalra, Sediment Transport Group scientific programmer, setting up computer-generated simulations from a three-dimensional modeling system. Photo credit: Tom Kleindinst, NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center
A man talks with another man and two young boys about a tripod structure fitted with instruments.
Seth Ackerman, Seafloor Mapping Group geologist, answering questions about Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center’s underwater video capabilities and data collection tools. Photo credit: Tom Kleindinst, NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center information specialist Andrea Toran greeted the public, provided general information resources and handouts about the Center’s research projects, and distributed copies of the recently published Circular titled “Coastal landforms and processes at the Cape Cod National Seashore—A primer.” This book is about local beaches, bluffs, spits, dunes, barrier beaches, estuaries, and salt marshes, and quickly became a hot commodity to Science Stroll participants. 

In addition to the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, participating organizations included the Buzzards Bay Coalition, Marine Biological Laboratory, NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, Sea Education Association, United States Coast Guard, WCAI (Cape and Islands NPR station), Woods Hole Film Festival, Woods Hole Historical Museum, Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Zephyr Marine.

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