Students in the College of the Redwoods Marine Science Technology Program (MST) recently built and deployed an ocean drifter designed to study California coastal currents. The drifter is a four-and-one-half foot tall by four foot wide structure made of PVC pipe, vinyl “sails” and a package containing a satellite transmitter. The drifter is designed to float just below the surface of the ocean so that its path is largely unaffected by the wind. A satellite tracking device protrudes above the ocean surface so the path of the drifter can be monitored by MST students, scientists and the public.
It was dropped into the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday May 11 with the help of the F/V Trek II about two miles offshore of Noyo Bay. Information gathered by the drifter will be used in future MST Program classes, such as the Oceanography class that will be offered this coming fall semester.
Funding and support for the project came from the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) program in Monterey via a grant from the National Science Foundation. Scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts provided materials and technical support to assist CR students to assemble the drifter, and the federal National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) donated satellite time to track the drifter.
Marine Science Technology students on the Mendocino Coast Campus are hoping to see how changes in wind and currents affect the path of their drifter. Visit the MST web page for an interesting video about the program, and watch the site for a future link that will allow you to track the path of the drifter along with the MST students.
Meanwhile, you can access a real-time Google map with the drifter location updated every four hours.