National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Wallops Flight Facility



This collaborative effort between the Center for Innovative technology (CIT), NASA Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), NOAA and a number of academic institutions and companies, monitors the influence of the Chesapeake Bay on the adjacent coastal ocean margin ecosystems through the development, deployment and use of various ocean observation tools. Coastal regions within the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) are directly influenced by regional freshwater fluxes that emanate from several large bay systems (Delaware and Chesapeake bays). The outflows from these bays have high sediment loads and high levels of nutrients, particulate and dissolved organic matter (POM, DOM) that heavily influence the adjacent coastal margin ecosystems. Our research and observational effort is developing and deploying an observing system aimed at characterizing and monitoring this influence of the Chesapeake Bay. A primary focus of this effort is to develop and apply cutting edge technologies and methodologies to support research, observation/monitoring efforts and management applications on the coastal ocean. A second focus is to develop and test new sensors, platforms, and applications that can be used to enhance this observing system and additionally support NOAA and NASA coastal ocean remote sensing activities and products.

This project is concentrating on developing, testing and deploying a fleet of solar-powered surface autonomous vehicles (Ocean-Atmosphere Sensor Integration System, OASIS) is being commercialized with support from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The project is presently completing testing of software for command and control of multiple OASIS platforms to support real-time dynamic mapping capabilities. In conjunction with this, we are developing several novel field instruments including a multi-spectral in situ fluorometer to support HAB (harmful algal bloom) detection and a robotic arm for controlled pointing of optical instruments to support above-water radiance measurements. Both devices are being developed for incorporation into OASIS platforms.

The project is deploying a Coastal Bio-Optical buoY (COBY) within a unique bio-optical region of the U.S. East Coast and will maintain it during bi-weekly cross-self surveys. In addition, we propose to monitor the cross-shelf variability of ocean temperature, salinity and fluorescence by deploying several OASIS platforms.

We are also continuing to carry out seasonal field surveys to investigate the interactions between biology and physics in this ocean margin system. One aspect of this effort is to obtain the necessary field observations for developing a longer term observing system. We are creating a full surface current product for the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Alliance (MACOORA) region by maintaining a system of 3 long-range and 2 standard range High Frequency (HF) radars that are being used to measure surface currents.

Finally, we are reaching out to establish and foster new collaborations with additional regional partners and are developing strong educational and outreach efforts, which include student participation on cruises, the development of three ‘hands on’ lessons in ocean biology, an educational journal article based on the developed curriculum, and an Internet website. We are also developing a data archive and data distribution system that will be made available to the public for research.