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Oregon Scientists Lead Underwater Research

An oceanographic buoy being deployed about 10 miles off Newport in March.

An oceanographic buoy being deployed about 10 miles off Newport in March.

Craig Risien

Last month Ed Dever helped to put four special, giant buoys off the coast of Oregon.

“I like to think of them as floating laboratories,”  said Dever, who is an Oceanography professor at Oregon State University. 

Each bouy is tethered to the ocean floor, weighs over 10,000 pounds, and is loaded with scientific instruments which will soon be measuring oxygen levels, acidity, and other biological and chemical data.

The buoys are part of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), a nationwide project which will measure data from sea floor to surface at seven different sites and relay the data back to scientists.

“These things are dialing in up to 24 times an hour,” says Dever, giving scientists an unprecedented ability to monitor changing ocean conditions in real time.

“To be honest,” says Dever, “we just don’t have the tools we need to pay attention to what we need to out there.”  

In addition to the buoys, scientists at Oregon State University have also placed several large underwater gliders off the coast of Oregon. These can roam out over 100 miles from the shore and can be programmed in real-time to measure different data.

Once both the buoys and gliders begin transmitting data back to shore in June, the Ocean Observatories Initiative will make that data available for anyone to use on its website. 

Jack Barth is a project scientist for the Oregon portion of the OOI. He says he hopes high school students across the country use the data to plan classroom projects.

“They can see how science is done, they can get excited, they can learn about the issues of the day,” says Barth. “I think it’s going to democratize the use of this cutting edge data.” 


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