Thursday, July 5, 2012

Boats, Buoys, and Underwater Robots- Oh My..

“Okay, we’re almost on station. Will, get your team in gear,” I offered as Captain Mike eased back on the throttle of the Research Vessel Callinectes. On this third day of the CES GIS Marine Exploration Camp (June 25-29) the students were already in gear. Grab the GPS, the ponar, the clipboard. The Callinectes sidles up to a point selected by the participant team. The captain moves to the back deck pilot station. Dan opens the transom door. Scott (age 17) arms the spring loaded ponar with the jaws open. Jackie (15) notes and records the GPS position from her handheld device and compares it to the boat gps. Will (age 13) lowers the pressure transducer to the bottom and verifies the 24ft depth noted on the ship’s echosounder. Kelsey (15) writes fervently, recording on paper, all of the goings-on and takes pictures of each sample.

Scott lowers the ponar to the Bay floor. He jerks the line a little and feels the jaws of the sampler close. With help from others he hoists the sampler back to the deck, up and over the transom and into the waiting plastic tray. He pushes down on the contraption, the jaws open, and oodles of sediment and stuff pour out. “Rangia,” he exclaims, “I love these Atlantic Rangia.” Will, Jackie, Kelsey, and Scott drop to their knees. Scott describes: “Sandy silt with frequent disarticulated Rangia shells.” He notes that “disarticulated” means that he sees a whole “half” of a clam. It’s not fragmented. Articulated would mean that he’s got both halves, connected as a whole clam, in hand. Sandy-silt means that there is more silt than sand. The Marine Exploration team completes this dance of bottom sampling ten more times up the Chester River from the mouth all the way to Crumpton.

The results of this mapping exercise, along with other day’s experiences building buoys and underwater robots were shared with the entire GIS camp the Saturday after the week-long experience. “This was the best camp experience I’ll have this summer,” exclaimed Will, the team leader of “Will Power” the Camp’s Marine Exploration Team Leader.


Doug Levin is the Associate Director of the Center for Environment & Society.


  1. Doug

    Thanks for being a part of their week. I know Kelsey had a blast and is planning to return again next summer for her 4th year.

    (Kelsey's mom)

  2. Thanks Leann! It was a pleasure having Kelsey as part of the team.