Calling All Citizen Scientists: SeaKeepers, Scripps Need You

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography is world-renowned for its contributions to ocean-related research. Imagine, then, if you could lend its scientists a helping hand, simply by offering use of your yacht. It’s possible, thanks to Scripps signing an agreement with the International SeaKeepers Society.

While Scripps operates a fleet of research vessels, this agreement engages citizen scientists such as yourself who wish to assist. “It affords the opportunity for interested and motivated non-scientists to make real connections with scientists and their institutions, and to make tangible contributions to ocean science,” says Bruce Applegate, associate director of Scripps Oceanography and head of the institution’s Ship Operations and Marine Technical Support. “Through this program, scientists and non-scientists alike can share the experience of understanding and protecting the planet.”

Here’s how it works. When a Scripps scientist, engineer, or student engaged in research needs to collect samples and deploy instruments, Scripps will contact SeaKeepers. SeaKeepers in turn will search its database of yacht owners willing to assist, and the match will be made.

The Scripps-SeaKeepers agreement has its roots in a meeting about five years ago. That’s when Patty Elkus, a founding member of SeaKeepers and a Scripps adviser, worked with Kevin Hardy, then a Scripps engineer, to partner SeaKeepers yachts with Scripps efforts needing assistance. “My motivation was to connect two exemplary ocean organizations that I support, and align them into a synergistic relationship that will advance oceanographic science,” Elkus explains. It led to the creation of the SeaKeepers Discovery Yachts Program. (Copasetic, pictured above, is among the Discovery Yachts Program participants.) The latter allows owners to lend their yachts for a variety of purposes. They include afternoon educational sessions with children, a simple 10-minute instrument deployment during a cruise already planned, and a week-long expedition with a team of researchers aboard.

The new Scripps-SeaKeepers agreement is expected to greatly expand the Discovery Yachts Program. For example, Hardy created deep-sea instruments called Deep Ocean Vehicles (DOVs) that can be deployed off the yachts. The DOVs were famously used for film director James Cameron’s exploration of the Mariana Trench in 2012. Also called landers, the instruments descend from the water’s surface and land upright on the sea floor. Hardy has smaller versions measuring five feet tall that are simple to carry aboard yachts and be launched off their sides. One such lander will be put to use this spring off northern California.

Interesting enough, the Scripps-SeaKeepers collaboration is akin to how the research organization got its start. Its first expeditions after its founding in 1903 involved private vessels.

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