The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) is set to depart this spring on a pioneering transatlantic voyage that could open the doors on a new era of marine science. MAS provides scientists with a flexible, cost-effective platform for studying the ocean and gaining insight into critical issues such as global warming, ocean plastic pollution, and marine mammal conservation.
Led by marine research organization ProMare with support from IBM, this voyage – the first fully autonomous undertaking of its kind – would not be possible without the cooperation of a global consortium of technology and science partners, including Sequoia Scientific, Inc.
Sequoia is ecstatic that one of our innovative instruments, the LISST-Holo2, will be included to support the ship’s scientific mission. The LISST-Holo2 brings to the Mayflower Autonomous Ship an advanced in-line holography technology which accurately measures particle size and concentration in addition to generating detailed holographic images, ideal for the study of flocs, plankton, and other particles in water. Deployed by ocean scientists around the globe, the instrument provides a key data-set which complements other installed payloads and the mission itself. A unique feature of the LISST-Holo2 software is its ability to rank thousands of holograms based on richness of imagery, a Sequoia innovation for the rapid overview of a collection of holograms.
One of the scientists helping to deploy this technology during the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project is Dr Alex Nimmo-Smith, Associate Professor in Marine Physics at the University of Plymouth, UK. His research interests are focused on suspended particle dynamics, both in terms of how particles (plankton, sediment, bubbles, droplets) behave in a natural, turbulent environment, and also in the use of particles as tracers of turbulent flows. He has developed several in situ optical systems to directly image particles for measurement and identification (including the precursor to the LISST-Holo2), and visualize 3D turbulence structure. Dr Nimmo-Smith will be using Sequoia’s LISST-Holo2 to capture images and information on the distribution of plankton and other particles, potentially including microplastic pollutants, throughout the Mayflower Autonomous Ship’s voyage.
The University of Plymouth has been at the global forefront of microplastics research for almost 20 years, having led studies into their sources, impacts and ubiquity. These pollutants may originally arrive into the ocean as larger litter that breaks down slowly into tiny “microplastic” particles or may originate from items such as “microbeads”, used in health and beauty products, that pass unchanged through waterways into the ocean. Whilst plastic microbeads have banned in the US, UK and several other nations, microplastics are still a huge problem. Aquatic life and birds can mistake microplastics and microbeads for food. Sequoia is appreciative of scientists and innovators finding ways to apply the use of our instruments to the study of microplastics in our oceans.
Bon voyage to the Mayflower Autonomous Ship and our LISST-Holo2 aboard!