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A free-drifting mimic of vertically migrating zooplankton


Many zooplankton species perform diel vertical migrations (DVM) which, in conjunction with vertical current shear, complicate the use of conventional fixed-depth drifters to account for advection. Here we illustrate the first use of an autonomous Vertically Migrating Drifter (VMD) to mimic DVM behavior. The vehicle resides within different subsurface layers at different times of day through either active hover cycles or passive drifts. It moves vertically between these layers at speeds comparable to those recorded for migratory populations. In this mode, it can be utilized as a tool to estimate the advection of migratory zooplankton in regions of high vertical current shear and can be employed as a Lagrangian tracer when attempting to sample the same population repeatedly over time.

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