Minions: A Low-cost Float for Distributed, Langrangian Observations of the biological Carbon Pump

Lead PI:  Melissa Omand, University of Rhode Island
Start Year: 2018 | Duration: 3 years
Partners: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Wood Hole Oceanographic , Universities Space Research Association NASA, National Science Foundation

The transport of organic carbon from the ocean’s surface to its abyssal depths plays a central role in regulating atmospheric carbon, and thus the world’s climate. Understanding the ‘Biological Carbon Pump’, or BCP, is thus crucial to predicting the evolution of the world’s climate.
However, due to the complexity of the BCP and the limitations of available observations (largely from bulk geochemical analyses of the contents of particle-intercepting traps), predictions of oceanic carbon sequestration remain extremely uncertain. Reducing this uncertainty requires observations of the key export pathways that resolve the myriad scales and nonlinearities at the heart of the BCP. To this end, we propose the development of floats that combine recent technological developments in environmental tag technology and low-cost imaging. Our goal is to make possible dense distributions of Lagrangian platfonns that can directly observe the transport and transfonnation of individual particles that drive the BCP.