Tracking Marine Snow

Sven Scheuermeier via unsplash

Biological Carbon Pump (BCP), which refers to the transport of particulate organic carbon (POC) from the ocean’s surface to the bottom, directly impacts the global climate. However, predicting ocean carbon sequestration remains highly uncertain due to the complexity of the BCP, observation methodology differences, and temporal and spatial aliasing. Therefore, mass-deployable (i.e. low-cost) sensors that directly observe the transport of organic particles are crucial.

We set out to build an underwater stereo-imaging system to remotely measure the sinking POC in the ocean. The hardware design is primarily restricted by the depth (pressure), particle size (resolution) and sinking rate (framerate), deployment duration (battery) and cost (mass-deployment). Upon obtaining time-lapse images of the POC, 3D particle tracking velocimetry algorithm is applied to analyze the particle sinking rate. Ultimately, this will be attached to a Lagrangian float with other sensors to reliably measure various factors that affect the BCP.