In my opinion, the OTIS mission represents a significant step forward in the collaboration between our respective groups. I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. There were so many contributors to this it is hard to thank you all. The integration of telemetry with gliders started years ago with Josh Kohut (Rutgers University) and John Manderson (NOAA) as they strapped a giant VR2 to the side of a slocum glider. These guys were innovating. The project got a major boost when private supporters of the University of Delaware visited our Global Visualization Lab in Lewes, DE, saw the power ocean observatories and wanted to do something risky; something that was too risky for the Feds to fund. We proposed detecting sharks on the fly with a glider, and they loved the idea. We took on this challenge by leveraging our existing observing networks, and made sure that when the time came, we had enough sharks for a glider to track in the coastal ocean. Initially, we retried the Kohut/Manderson technique of strapping on a new and improved receiver from VEMCO onto a RU glider, and during a MARACOOS run, detected sturgeon in transit last year. We showed that the observatory added significant to how Atlantic sturgeon may be using the coastal ocean. That work has now been accepted in Fisheries Magazine. In this last spring and summer, a massive tagging effort of Sand Tiger sharks took place in Delaware Bay in which Dewayne Fox (Delaware State University), Brad Wetherbee (University of Rhode Island) and crew donated hours of boat time, gear, bait, fuel, and general know how to tag 78 sharks with different combinations of acoustic tags, pop-off satellite tags and, most notably, the social network VMT tag, where sharks collect data on who else is swimming nearby the sharks. These sharks added to the several hundred sand tiger sharks already tagged by Dewayne Fox and Brad Wetherbee. Danielle Haulsee (University of Delaware), Matt Breece (University of Delaware), Megan Cimino (University of Delaware), Cara Simpson (NSF REU student from St. Mary’s), Jimmy Kilfoil (Delaware State University), Greg Reger (Delaware State University), Jericka Hale (Delaware State University), Amy Comer (Delaware State University), Dewayne Fox and myself l pulled a lot of nets to catch bait, and set miles of line to catch Sand Tiger sharks. Two large animal veterinarians from the Georgia Aquarium (Tanya Clauss and Lisa Hoopes) came up to help us learn how to implant VMT tags properly over the side of a rocking boat, and they brought their buddy Jeff Corwin along for the ride! As the season wore on, we had a massive late season push to get the tags out before their move south.
The delivery of a VEMCO integrated glider this summer represented a new step in AUV telemetry fusion, where the glider could report acoustic detections in near real time. The gliders name is OTIS, which stands for Oceanographic Telemetry Identification Sensor (Otis is also a name that means “one who listens well”). The project depended on engineering integration between VEMCO Ltd. and Teledyne Webb Research. Doug White (University of Delaware), Megan Cimino, Matthew Breece, and Danielle Haulsee prepped, simulated, and tested the glider, and planned OTISs’ historic run. We knew we were going to run near treacherous shoals, so when it came down to piloting, we turned to the best in the land, Dave Aragon (Rutgers University) and Chip Haldeman (Rutgers University). When we struggled early issues with data collection from the VEMCO receivers, Chip trouble shot the issue on the fly, isolated the problem, and avoided the issue so the mission could continue. Dave Aragon was an expert in getting OTIS to fly in VERY shallow water, which was very important in this mission. As usual, John Kerfoot (Rutgers University) kept the data flowing so our research team at the University of Delaware could evaluate data on the fly, and change the waypoints of OTIS dynamically. When we started detecting sharks with OTIS, we made history, doubled back, and criss-crossed a school of sharks for a few days. There was constant interaction between our research group and the pilots to evaluate performance of the glider, and most importantly, what the sharks might be up to as they moved down the Delmarva Peninsula. As the tag codes came in Lori Brown (Delaware State University), Dewayne Fox, Danielle Haulsee, and Matt Breece were able to cross reference tag codes with their collaborative database from the Atlantic Cooperative Telemetry Network (ACT) to know exactly who the fish was, where it was caught, how big it was, and even had photos! Something else amazing happened, we encountered VEMCO sensor tags, and actually downloaded data from some tagged fish using OTIS. I'm guessing that is another first. Danielle Haulsee, Dewayne Fox and Greg Reger successfully recovered OTIS today from Chincoteague Va., having detected upwards of 25 different fish while collecting detailed information about the waters they were found in. Dave Aragon had OTIS parked and waiting, and recovery was a breeze.
As we download data from OTIS, it became so evident to me that the success of this mission depended on the good will and collaboration of the ENTIRE group. Any break in the network and we wouldn't have been successful.
Many many thanks to all of you, and we look forward to understanding and analyzing the data from this historic mission.
We are biologists, we are ecologists, we are oceanographers, we are integrated.
University of Delaware
College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment