Ocean Sciences

Centers and Labs

SUrge-STructure-Atmosphere-Interaction (SUSTAIN) laboratory: SUSTAIN includes three wind-wave test tanks for studying the air-sea interface and coastal impacts in extreme winds, oiled-water surface dynamics, waves and turbulence. The water in SUSTAIN can be fresh or saltwater in any proportion and the water temperature can be controlled in the range of 5 ºC to 40 °C. The largest, completely new wind-wave tank has a test section that is 18x6x2-m. It has the capability of generating scaled boundary layer wind speeds from zero up to ~100-m/s.  It has a 12 paddle directional wave generator to produce a realistic surface wave field for Langmuir circulation, upper ocean turbulence and mixing studies. A second medium sized (15x1x1-m) wind-water tank will be used for studies of the interaction between winds-waves and currents. Scaled winds of up to 50 m/s may be generated in the test section. Mean currents up to 40 cm/s may be generated at maximum water depth. Mechanically generated long-crested waves may be produced by a computer-controlled hydraulic wave-maker, which may be installed either aligned or in opposition to the wind and currents. A third small (0.4x0.25x0.2-m) tank will be used for studies of the air-water-oil interface for the purposes of CFD model validation. Measurement capabilities for all three test tanks include laser elevation gauges, multiple wave gauges to allow removal of reflected waves at the paddles, laser slope gauges, stereo particle image velocimetry, hot-film anemometry, laser spray imaging system, a fast response wave follower an profiler system, infrared and polarimetric cameras.

The Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing (CSTARS) is a high-capability receiving and near-real-time analysis facility for low earth orbiting (LEO) satellite data. CSTARS permits a rapid use of civilian synthetic aperture radar (SAR), electro-optical (EO), and other remote sensing satellite data for a variety of users (including government agencies) and applications. CSTARS utilizes rapid data access to enable fast response for time-critical operations and asset allocations. It enhances the nation’s homeland defense and environmental security by enabling advanced ship detection and classification capabilities, rapid assessment of damage from storms and other natural disasters, and the detection and locating of sources of pollutants and targets in specific areas of interest. CSTARS can provide timely information on environmental conditions during severe storms such as hurricanes, extensive flooding of rivers and coastal regions, and other natural hazards. As leading center for environmental remote sensing in the southeastern U.S., CSTARS is capable of receiving, processing, and providing large volumes of satellite data, in particular SAR images covering more than 2,500 km on the ground in single-beam mode or combinations of multiple scenes with different beam modes, within 30 minutes of capture. CSTARS can receive data from satellites about 2.5° above the horizon. While images of this direct visibility domain can be downlinked as they are acquired, images of other regions around the world can be obtained by using a "store and forward" concept. The variety of data available through CSTARS and of the related research projects give graduate students of RSMAS a great opportunity to get involved in the latest developments in the field of ocean and ice remote sensing and to get in touch with research partners and users from all over the world.

The Physical-Biological Interactions Laboratory is located the new Marine Technology and Life Sciences (MTLS) Building on RSMAS campus. The PBI Lab includes a Dry lab (670 sqft) and a Seawater lab (325 sqft). The Dry lab is dedicated to instrument development and data analyses, including bio-acoustic data and three-dimension image analyses from observations and numerical modeling. The Dry lab is also equipped with pelagic sampling systems, passive acoustic instruments, and is home of the Drifting In Situ Chamber (DISC), a Lagrangian device developed to track the movement of pelagic larvae and record environmental signals in the field. The Seawater lab hosts breading and larval rearing tanks, a flume choice tank for olfactory experiments, and a unique clear polymer cylindrical tank (66 inch height x 43 inch diameter). This aquarium is a large behavioral chamber designed to examine biophysical interactions in controlled settings. The concept of the design is a combination of a tall water column with a circular arena to observe the swimming behavior of larvae and test and quantify their navigational skills. The Seawater lab is equipped with a computer-controlled led lighting system that has the capability of generating skylight patterns, reproduce natural downwelling light, and vary wavelengths. The system can reproduce conditions observed in situ while controlling and manipulating a series of environmental cues. These laboratory experiments will be used for studies of larval dispersal and migration for the purposes of model parameterization and validation, e.g., of the Connectivity Modeling System (CMS), an open-source Lagrangian stochastic model developed by the PBI lab at RSMAS.

The Ocean Technology Group (OTECH) provides technical and personnel support for sea-going experiments locally, nationally, and around the globe. OTECH maintains a large inventory of standard equipment, including approximately 30 Aanderaa, 45 vector-averaging (VACM) and 6 vector-measuring (VMCM) current meters, 6 acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs), 30 acoustic mooring releases and 3 PEGASUS acoustic current profilers. In addition the group is involved in the development or expanded use of new instrumentation, including RAFOS (autonomous, acoustically tracked subsurface) floats, and satellite based (using Global Positioning System or GPS) acoustic current profilers.

The Organic Biogeochemistry Lab focuses primarily on carbon and nitrogen cycles and the distribution and movement of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the ocean. These efforts consist of both time series studies as well as survey and process work in various ocean basins.

Chemistry Laboratory. The analytical instruments in the chemistry lab allow for quantifying the following parameters:  1) inorganic nitrogen, phosphate, and silicate; 2) dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen; 3) trace elements and their stable isotopes; 4) carbonate species; 5) alkalinity, salinity and pH; 6) density; 7) tritium, CFCs, SF6. 

Neptune Laboratory. The Thermo Scientific NEPTUNE Multi Collector (MC) ICP-MS) Isotope Laboratory at the UM Rosenstiel School provides a clean-room enclosure with several class-100 vertical and horizontal laminar flow hoods, two high-purity water systems, sub-boiling acid distillation units and two, class-100 trace metal workstations for low-blank sample processing and wet chemistry. The Thermo Scientific NEPTUNE Multi Collector (MC) ICP-MS offers high sensitivity and wide-ranging measurement capability. It is equipped with 9 Faraday detectors with one 1010Ω and one 1012Ω resistor to permit a dynamic range in Faraday detection.  The instrument has 5 ion counters with one RPQ filter for study of isotopes with very low signal intensities, and permits a wide range of isotope systems to be analyzed at high precision. The instrument is equipped with many sample introduction systems that can be tailored for each application. The Neptune can analyze solutions via quartz spray chamber, PFA barrel spray chamber, desolvating nebuliser ESI Apex Q with 24 hours operation achieved using autosamplers ESI DX2.  Solid samples can be analyzed by the New Wave Excimer 193 nm Laser Ablation (LA) system. The capability of the NEPTUNE to measure isotopic ratios across a wide range of elements allows applications in earth sciences, palaeoceanography, medical research and environmental studies.  This instrument is routinely used for isotope dilution analysis of low level Fe, Mn, Cd, Zn and Cu in oceanic waters and the measurements of precise isotopic ratios of Li, B, Mg, Ca, Hf, Fe, Zn, Cd, Sr, Sc, Y, Rare Earth Elements in seawater and geological samples, and U-Th geochronology of carbonate rocks, including corals and speleothems.

The Upper Ocean Dynamics Laboratory (UODL), conducts a spectrum of experimental studies of coastal circulation processes and ocean-atmosphere interactions during hurricane passage. One important focus is to understand the role of the upper ocean on sudden hurricane intensification changes using a combination of satellite (radar altimetry), aircraft and in situ measurement and analysis techniques such as operational oceanic heat content product suite for hurricane intensity forecasting. Personnel are involved in various aspects of the NOAA Hurricane Research Division Hurricane Field Program each year deploying oceanographic and atmospheric sensors such as profiling floats and expendables from USAF WC-130s and NOAA WP-3Ds. This airborne oceanographic component in the laboratory, only a few exist worldwide,  was recently involved in mapping the Loop Current and eddy field during the Deep Water Horizon oil spill as well as involvement in international field programs addressing weather and climate variability.
            o A second focus of the laboratory is the operation of High Frequency Radars (HFR) to map the real time surface currents, winds and waves. Currently, the laboratory has three radars operational with a fourth radar to be deployed in North Key Largo in the near future in the South Florida footprint. These radars, working 24/7, provide data to the HFR national network to measure the energetic, and oft-trecherous Florida Current through the Florida Straits. In addition to providing valuable data for student research topics, these real time measurements address a spectrum of societally relevant  issues related to the coastal ocean on : search and rescue operations by the United States Coast Guard; ship tracking by the Department of Homeland Security; dispersion of toxins such as harmful algae blooms in the surface layer (e.g., beach closures); predicting and mitigating the effects of an oil spill (e.g., Deep Water Horizon); improving storm surge and inudation models; providing data to improve rip current predictions; and linking fisheries and biological data to coastal ocean circulation processes. The program is supported by the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing System Regional Association which is sponsored by NOAA's Integrated Ocean Observing System Program.  
            o UODL provides a forum for scientists, students and local communities with critical resources relevant for the continued state-of-the-art study of tropical storms and their impacts on coastal ocean circulation. With three decades of solid research experience, scientists and students exchange ideas with common interests in these highly relevant societally relevant themes.

The Tritium Laboratory
The University of Miami Tritium Laboratory is a world leader in environmental tritium, CFCs and SF6 measurement and analysis in water, with over 45 years of experience. In order to measure atmospheric, oceanic and groundwater tritium, the laboratory was founded by Professor Emeritus, Dr. Göte Östlund. Later, the lab was expanded to include sensitive CFCs and SF6 measurement for use as alternative tracers. Our goal is to provide sensitive, accurate and timely measurement of these environmental tracers to the hydrologic community. We welcome all collaborative scientific research efforts as well as commercial and regulatory activities which require our level of expertise.

Infrared Remote Sensing Laboratory Situated on the ground floor of North Grosvenor, the Infrared Remote Sensing Laboratory is where instruments are prepared and calibrated prior to ship-board deployment, and re-calibrated and refurbished after periods at sea. The primary instruments are the Marine-Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometers (M-AERI’s) which have been deployed on over 50 cruises to assess the uncertainties in the skin Sea-Surface Temperature (SST) retrievals from a number of radiometers on earth-observation satellites. The M-AERI’s are Fourier-Transform Infrared interferometers that produce spectra in the wavelength range of 3 to 18 μm, that is it spans the most important range of infrared emission from the ocean and atmosphere. The M-AERI’s have two internal blackbodies for calibration during field deployments and the accuracy of the internal calibration is determined before and after use at sea using SI-traceable calibration facilities in the laboratory. The laboratory calibration water-bath black-body reference, constructed to a design of the National Institutes of Standard and Technology (NIST), has been characterized by the NIST Transfer Radiometer several times, and has been used in three international infrared calibration workshops at RSMAS. The emission spectra measured by the M-AERI’s can be used to study a range of oceanic and atmospheric processes. Other sea-going instruments we use include ISAR’s (Infrared SST Autonomous Radiometer’s) which are routinely deployed on commercial ships crossing the Pacific Ocean, and their skin SST measurements are also used to assess the uncertainties in satellite measurements. Alongside the M-AERI’s a large selection of meteorological sensors, including a microwave radiometer to measure atmospheric moisture, all-sky cameras, and radiosondes stations to measure profiles of temperature and humidity, are deployed on ships; all are maintained in the Infrared Remote Sensing Laboratory.

Research Groups

Air-Sea Interaction Buoy (ASIB) group: A group focused on small scale interfacial processes critical to understanding large scale weather and climate dynamics, as well as the scattering of electromagnetic and acoustic signals from the water’s surface. The ASIB group conducts experiments regarding the evolution of the directional ocean wave spectrum; internal waves; air-sea interaction in tropical and extra-tropical cyclones; gas exchange dynamics in the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic; and measurements of turbulent ocean and atmospheric properties to understand radar backscatter variations. The group has an array of air-sea interaction spar (ASIS) and extreme air-sea interaction (EASI) buoys with instrumentation to acquire critical measurements.

Ocean Acoustic Observatory: A semi-permanent acoustic range installed off the coast of Dania, Fla. that is hard-wired to a shore station. The range has both active and passive modes, providing real time, continuous records of acoustic fluctuations for basic studies of sound propagation and scattering, and applications to surveillance and monitoring

Hurricanes and Coupled Atmosphere-Ocean Systems Group: Prof. Chen's research focuses on the dynamics and air-sea interactions in tropical convection, tropical cyclones/hurricanes, and intraseasonal oscillations. Prof. Chen leads a research group at UM that has developed a new generation fully coupled atmosphere-wave-ocean model known as the University of Miami Coupled Model (UMCM) for coastal and hurricane research and prediction.