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Zooglider: An autonomous vehicle for optical and acoustic sensing of zooplankton


We present the design and preliminary results from ocean deployments of Zooglider, a new autonomous zooplankton-sensing glider. Zooglider is a modified Spray glider that includes a low-power camera (Zoocam) with telecentric lens and a custom dual frequency Zonar (200 and 1000 kHz). The Zoocam quantifies zooplankton and marine snow as they flow through a defined volume inside a sampling tunnel. Images are acquired on average every 5 cm from a maximum operating depth of ~ 400 m to the sea surface. Biofouling is mitigated using a dual approach: an ultraviolet light-emitting diode and a mechanical wiper. The Zonar permits differentiation of large and small acoustic backscatterers in larger volumes than can be sampled optically. Other sensors include a pumped conductivity, temperature, and depth unit and chlorophyll a fluorometer. Zooglider enables fully autonomous in situ measurements of mesozooplankton distributions, together with the three-dimensional orientation of organisms and marine snow in relation to other biotic and physical properties of the ocean water column. It is well suited to resolve thin layers and microscale ocean patchiness. Battery capacity supports 50 d of operations. Zooglider includes two-way communications via Iridium, permitting near-real–time transmission of data from each dive profile, as well as interactive instrument control from remote locations for adaptive sampling.

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