As part of our short course/workshop at KAUST, we were given a tour of the Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab (CMOR), which supports the marine science operations at KAUST. In addition to having academic departments and individual laboratories, KAUST has a series of “core labs” where scientists/researchers across disciplines and centers can go to use state-of-the-art machines and facilities. There are six core labs specializing in things like biosciences/bioengineering, nanofabrication and thin film, and supercomputing, all of which are staffed by scientists who support the research being done at the university. We had a look at CMOR to see the machinery and facilities that the marine scientists have at their disposal, which ranged from one of the largest research vessels in Saudi Arabia to a warehouse full of 3D-printers, CNC mills, lathes, and dozens of other tools to make all of the equipment and instruments that a scientist would need to carry out his/her research.
One of the things that we got a look at was a glider used for oceanographic research. These yellow torpedo-shaped instruments are deployed into the sea and glide on ocean currents, using motors on each side to stabilize themselves in the water column. They are being used on different projects and to answer various research questions, from searching for oil deposits to studying shark behavior. One of the things the gliders can do is send out acoustic waves to study the nature of the ocean floor, collecting information about things like bathymetry or the presence of oil. They are also fitted with equipment to measure pH, depth, and temperature, all of which is recorded on each dive and retrieved once the gliders reach the surface.
For a look at one of these gliders in action and in a more biological application, check out this video for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s SharkCam:
Something that I really like about marine science is how interdisciplinary of a field it is. The ocean is a big, complex system that poses difficult and fascinating questions. In order to learn anything about the sea, biologists, engineers, atmospheric scientists, modelers, mathematicians, and chemists (to name a few) work together to put together research projects. This is just one example of how we are using/developing new technologies to learn more about the ocean.