Two marine technicians sail aboard every research cruise of both vessels. They are on call at all times and typically divide the day into two 12-hour periods to provide round-the-clock support. The two OTG marine technicians share responsibility for supervising back deck operations and overseeing data acquisition throughout each cruise. In addition they monitor data acquisition throughout the cruise to ensure high quality data is continuously being logged.
When a cruise is scheduled the Director of Marine Technical Services, Scott Ferguson, works with the Marine Operations Program Coordinator to identify the cruise objectives and equipment requirements. The Director then assigns a single OTG marine technician to be the lead technician and serve as the primary point-of-contact. The marine technician asks the PI to complete an OTG-provided pre-cruise plan to assess the needs of the science party. They discuss logistical issues, such as equipment availability, deck layout, dockside assistance, shipping, berthing, dates, and port accessibility. If the science party requests equipment not currently in the OTG shared-use pool, the marine technician identifies appropriate equipment operated by other UNOLS member institutions that can be borrowed or leased. The lead marine technician works closely with the Director, Marine Superintendent, and cruise PI to coordinate all science-related activities. This approach has proven to be very successful in maintaining consistent lines of communication throughout the cruise between technicians, science users, ship’s crew and marine operations personnel.
Onboard ship, OTG technicians provide technical assistance in support of scientific shipboard operations. During the loading period, OTG technicians coordinate with the chief scientist and direct the mobilization of both shared-use and project-specific equipment. They assist in the placement and proper stowage of equipment in the ship laboratories, orient the scientists within shipboard laboratories, and provide instruction in proper utilization of shared-use equipment. At sea, the technicians work with the ship’s crew and science party to follow safe working practices on deck and during over-the-side operations. They manage the shared-use data acquisition and sampling systems on board, including the CTD, fluorometer, thermosalinograph, multibeam echosounders, gravimeter, magnetometer, bottom sampling, underway systems, ADCP, and other gear. Kilo Moana normally collects swath bathymetry data every day at sea, with OTG technicians maintaining, operating and troubleshooting all primary multibeam software, hardware components and auxiliary input sensors. They produce sound velocity profiles and ensure data logging and archiving is occurring. The technicians also maintain the ship’s Internet connectivity via the HiSeasNet and the Fleet Broadband 500 systems. OTG technicians monitor data quality, operate and maintain the Shipboard Information System that logs and distributes data over the ship’s intranet, and troubleshoot and repair broken scientific instrumentation and ship electronics. The marine technicians also assist the ship’s command with computer and electrical problems related to ship control systems.
At the end of a cruise the lead technician performs data quality control and archiving so the PI has a single point of contact for any data-related questions after the cruise is complete. Immediately following each cruise, a full copy of all underway data is provided to the PI and stored on OTG’s shore-side server. As an added precaution, all cruise data on the server is routinely backed up and stored at an off-site location. The technicians assist in equipment demobilization and the Director of Marine Technical Services also follows up on any comments provided by scientist-provided post-cruise assessments.
When not at sea, OTG is responsible for maintaining equipment, calibrating sensors, and implementing improvements suggested by scientists (consistent with budget oversight). They monitor developments in data acquisition equipment and recommend instruments to be included in proposals to replace outdated or substandard gear with new systems or software that better match the science community’s evolving needs. Technicians also participate in training courses in order to learn new and appropriate technologies that can be used to better support science operations. As schedules permit, OTG technicians also provide technical assistance, scientific diving support and serve as small boat operators for UH faculty and staff.