Scripps Oceanography joins SeaKeepers in research pact

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SAN DIEGO — The Scripps Institution of Oceanography plans to make use of boaters in future research after signing an agreement with the Florida- based International SeaKeepers Society.

The deal announced Thursday calls for SeaKeepers — a yachting society with a mission to promote oceanographic research, conservation, and education — to tap into its database of yachting vessel owners willing to offer their ships for marine research and exploration.

When a need arises from a Scripps scientist, engineer, or student, a match will be made with a yachter, giving the researcher an opportunity to collect samples, deploy instruments, and further their science.

“This agreement provides a way for citizens — yacht owners — to participate in scientific research in a meaningful way,” said Bruce Appelgate, associate director of Scripps Oceanography and ship operations and marine technical support.

“It affords the opportunity for interested and motivated nonscientists to make real connections with scientists and their institutions, and to make tangible contributions to ocean science,” Appelgate said. “Through this program, scientists and nonscientists alike can share the experience of understanding and protecting the planet.”

Scripps Oceanography has its own fleet of vessels, but the Discovery Yachts program extends its reach even more.

The organizations have been working together on an informal basis for about five years, and the new agreement formalizes the arrangement. Patty Elkus, a member of the Scripps Director’s Council, is one of the founders of the yachter’s group.

“My motivation was to connect two exemplary ocean organizations that I support, and align them into a synergistic relationship that will advance oceanographic science,” said Elkus.

“As a citizen scientist, I understand firsthand that the Discovery Yachts program is a valuable platform for providing our Scripps scientists with crucial ocean access,” Elkus said. “It introduces them to SeaKeepers citizen scientists who have the interest and means to support their work in a tangible way and are interested in daring exploration.”

According to Scripps, graduate student Natalya Gallo has been investigating the impact of declining subsurface oxygen levels off California, which are known to have dropped some 20-30 percent over the last 25 years. She’s been assisted in her studies by the San Diego Yacht Club and a local boat owner.

Gallo is looking to deploy oxygen-measuring devices in Southern California’s deep-sea environments in an effort to evaluate how frequently such areas are exposed to low-oxygen conditions and how fish respond to the changes.

This spring, she’ll deploy an oxygen sensor package and camera system in the Scripps Coastal Reserve off La Jolla, from a boat owned by Rodney Moll, a Yacht Club member, according to Scripps. The device will focus on depths between 300 and 1,200 feet, and be retrieved a few months later.

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