The PI's requests MRI funding to acquire an instrumented autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) for physical, biological, and chemical oceanographic studies in estuaries and coastal waters. The proposed AUV is specifically equipped for operation in shallow coastal and estuarine environments, and includes: a guidance system that responds to real-time measurements, so that the AUV can be programmed to autonomously follow scalar gradients; a 1200-kHz current profiler, to make higher-resolution velocity profiles; a forward-looking sonar for improved terrain following at low altitudes for bottom boundary layer investigation and work in shallow water; modular payload packages, which increase the versatility of the AUV for either benthic or water column research; and submersible chemical sensors and imaging equipment. Collectively, these capabilities will facilitate new investigations of hypoxia dynamics, larval transport, estuarine physical processes, harmful algal blooms, fisheries, and sediment dynamics.
The broader impacts of note include fostering collaborations, and interactions with the general public and school groups via web portal, displays and demos. The PI's also identify opportunities for including the AUV in ongoing middle/high school HPL programs. Presently, no similarly capable AUV in terms of endurance, navigation accuracy, and instrumentation, is operated within the Chesapeake Bay area and greater Eastern seaboard. Acquisition of the proposed AUV instrument would enhance the infrastructure for coastal and estuarine research and education at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences. The benefit of the proposed facility to society is the improved understanding of coastal and estuarine marine environments. The AUV will be extremely useful in surveys of coastal and estuarine marine processes of importance to public health and society such as harmful algal blooms.