Section 5: Technical Services

Shipboard Technical Support

The STS group at Scripps Institution of Oceanography concerns itself with all scientific support services and facilities aboard Scripps's ships. STS employees are counted as members of the scientific party. The group consists of the following subunits:

  • Resident Marine Technicians
  • Shipboard Computer Group
  • Geophysical Engineer
  • Oceanographic Data Facility
  • Geological Data Center

These groups are responsible for the support of all scientific programs carried out aboard and provide logistic and post-cruise support as required. They can provide additional scientific gear as listed below. Any intended changes to the "normal" complement of technicians as noted below should be discussed well in advance with the STS manager.

Marine Research Technicians - Melville normally carries a marine research technician (ResTech) who provides a variety of technical and logistical support, and who oversees care of Scripps equipment, archival data, and samples, etc. The ResTech is funded as part of the ship's daily rate. If more than one ResTech is needed (for instance, to support round-the-clock deck operations), additional ResTechs may be provided for additional cost.

Equipment Available - ResTechs maintain and operate a variety of equipment, including corers, dredges, pingers, CTDs, magnetometers and other over-the-side instrumentation. Availability and use of the equipment must be planned several months in advance of cruise departure. The ResTech is in charge of routine scientific supply items and scientific storage spaces, and should be consulted regarding planning of net tows, buoy construction and deployment, use of explosives, and requirements involving laboratory or deck space.

Shipboard Computer Group (SCG) - Members of the SCG provide software and hardware engineering support aboard Melville for the scientific computers and the associated data acquisition equipment. There is normally a computer engineer on board who is usually a programmer/ analyst. Optionally, an electronics engineer will also be on board. The software and hardware engineers are cross-trained in both disciplines and can function in either role in varying degrees depending upon individual skills.

Equipment Available - The Shipboard Computer Group has custody of and operates the shipboard scientific computer systems and their associated data acquisition systems. The computer systems are based on twin Sun 600 servers. The systems have DAT, Exabyte and 9-track tape drive sub-systems. X-windows terminals, ASCII terminals, various printers and plotters, and several IBM PC/AT and Apple Macs are available. The data acquisition components include a SEA BEAM 2000 bathymetric mapping system, Bell BGM-3 gravity meter, RDI 150 kHz or 300 kHz current profiler, Sippican XBT and a Trimble GPS receiver.

Geophysical Engineer - The geophysical engineer is responsible for the installation, maintenance, and repair of the echo-sounding systems and magnetometers installed on Scripps vessels. He also provides a large variety of seismic research equipment. Included are airguns, hydrophone streamers, reels, and recorders. Other related systems can be made available. These involve wide-angle reflection, refraction, and single channel analog and digital reflection. Availability and use of the equipment, as well as the participation of qualified operating technicians, must be planned several months in advance. These services are provided on a cost basis.

Oceanographic Data Facility (ODF) - ODF provides a wide range of data and sample collecting services for physical, chemical, and biological oceanography on ships of all institutions. ODF also maintains an inventory of water samplers and other equipment available at cost to qualified users. The more sophisticated or costly equipment may be used only when accompanied by ODF technicians who operate and maintain it at sea.

The group participates in expeditions by making high-precision hydrographic measurements, specializing in Neil Brown Instrument Systems, conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) work, and shipboard determinations of salinity, dissolved oxygen, nutrients (silicate, phosphate, nitrate, and nitrite), alkalinity, and total CO2 from water samples collected with multiple-bottle samplers. The group maintains four sizes of non-metallic water samplers, ranging from 1.7 to 30 liters. Up to 48 samplers have been deployed at a time. Larger volume samplers (270 liters) are available in stainless steel for acquiring radiocarbon or other isotopic samples.

Geological Data Center (GDC) - The head of the GDC acts as curator to coordinate the collecting, processing, archiving, and reproduction of underway data (U/W) collected on SIO vessels. U/W collection, depending on the scientific program, may be either the principal effort of the cruise or a reduced ancillary program. At a minimum on the larger ships, it is customary to maintain a continuous watch to monitor the echosounder and magnetic recorders. (Navigation is automatically logged by computer and monitored by the computer technician.) Although depth data may not be of direct interest to the chief scientist, it should be noted that the bathymetric charts produced at Scripps and elsewhere, and used by all disciplines, are made in large part from data collected on cruises of opportunity. Likewise, magnetic data (which causes minimal interference with other programs unless closely spaced stations require frequent deployment of the towed fish) play a crucial role in developing and refining the seafloor/plate tectonics model which has had a major impact in geology, geophysics, and other research fields.

The U/W watch is usually under the general direction of the resident technician who provides log forms, training, and a manual that details watchstanding procedures and conventions for data logging and record annotation. There are no standing requirements for data collection on small ship local operations, but the Data Center can provide log forms and other assistance if contacted prior to the cruise. The head of GDC will contact the chief scientist at or before the cruise conference to work out details of data handling. The Data Center can also provide specialized bathymetric charts, data indexes, and other aids for cruise planning. Normally, the data are returned to the GDC as soon as possible after each cruise leg, where the records are indexed and microfilmed; navigation edited; digital depth and magnetics processed; and an informal inventory of cruise data and activities produced, usually within a month or two. A general multidisciplinary index of samples and data (SIO Sample Index) is also generated and distributed by GDC and the resident technicians.

The GDC Steering Committee, composed of geological staff, monitors the GDC operations and has formulated the following policies (1) U/W data collected on Scripps vessels are the property of the Institution and are checked out from GDC following microfilming, for on-campus use only, except where prior arrangements have been made, and (2) data are checked out with the understanding that ultimately all original records will be returned to GDC for permanent archiving. A chief scientist, whether or not from Scripps, may place a two year proprietary hold restricting access to the data; otherwise the data are available to any Scripps student or staff member during this period, following which copies of the data will be sent to the appropriate national data center. Exceptions to these procedures, especially those involving non-Scripps chief scientists, should be cleared prior to the cruise with the GDC Steering Committee via the U/W curator, who can also provide a detailed policy statement.