Operational Systems

Scheme of a FerryBox-System. -Image: HZG-

In-situ Measuring Systems

Our understanding of the ocean is limited by our observational capabilities. The ocean continues to be largely under-sampled. To better understand and manage the oceans and coastal regions, there is a clear need for environmental data with higher spatial and temporal resolution.

The Department of In-situ Measuring Systems develops and operates a network of FerryBoxes, a reliable and cost-effective observation system that enables scientists to continuously and autonomously measure oceanographic water quality parameters in the marine environment.

Ferries, cargo ships and cruise liners can be used as research platforms for scientific analysis. FerryBoxes installed on board these vessels are equipped with flow-through sensors that provide real-time measurements of different oceanographic parameters such as temperature, salinity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, pH, chlorophyll-a fluorescence, and nutrient concentrations.
More recently (since 2012), additional parameters specific to the carbon cycle, such as total alkalinity and partial pressure of carbon dioxide, have been added to some of the FerryBox platforms.
Time-series of FerryBox data continuously recorded along a certain transect can be used to study water quality changes in coastal waters (e.g. the impact of high nutrient loads from local rivers), effects of climate change on coastal ecosystems (e.g. the impact of extreme floods on nutrient budgets), or the role of coasts and shelf seas as a sink or a source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The high-resolution of FerryBox observations in space and time, allows for obtaining a detailed picture of biogeochemical changes occurring in surface waters, and this can help to elucidate complex processes occurring in the ocean. FerryBox measurements can also significantly improve ocean and climate models by establishing a realistic baseline.

In addition to FerryBox monitoring, underwater imaging on fixed stations is applied to resolve the small-scale distribution of plankton and particles (e.g. marine snow) in-situ. Traditionally, net sampling was used to understand the distribution of planktonic organisms. Using non-invasive, optical observation allows us to better assess the abundance and distribution of organisms as well as particle fluxes and thereby provides new insights into marine ecosystem dynamics and the global carbon cycle.