R/V Rachel Carson Opens Doors to Bay Discovery
Understanding and monitoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers is critical to guiding its restoration. With the addition of the state of the art, 81-foot Research Vessel Rachel Carson to the UMCES research fleet, regional scientists have a new tool for assessing the waters of the nation's largest estuary.
In its first year of service, the Rachel Carson has proven to be one of the most valuable tools in the environmental scientist’s arsenal, giving researchers an edge in their data collection efforts. Thanks to state-of-the art electronics and gear packages, the Carson makes scientific discovery more easier and more efficient in the field.
Compared to the Center’s previous primary research vessel, the R/V Aquarius, the Rachel Carson is able to not only whisk researchers from site to site in less time, but also do so more comfortably. Once on site, her digital positioning system is able to keep the vessel “motionless” over one spot while scientists collect data.
While still being fully outfitted, the Rachel Carson made some 30 cruises in her first year and spent 62 days underway on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, covering more than 2,700 miles. The UMCES Research Fleet Operations Center expects to see the vessel on the water for even more trips and for longer duration during the upcoming year.
While several 2009 trips were memorable, two cruises highlight the expanded capabilities the Carson provides to the Chesapeake Bay research fleet.
In July, the Carson successfully deployed a 3,500-pound monitoring buoy for the Chesapeake Bay Observing System, the largest buoy ever deployed by an UMCES vessel. The Carson’s twin winches allowed the crew to safely place the buoy in the Choptank River.
Throughout the summer, Dr. Walter Boynton's research team conducted several cruises to investigate Sediment Oxygen and Nutrient Exchange research in various parts of the Chesapeake. In August, Dr. Boynton was joined by National Public Radio science correspondent Christopher Joyce to look at how low oxygen conditions were impacting bottom-dwellers in the Wye River.
Through her lifetime, the R/V Rachel Carson will continue to allow scientists to push the bounds of our scientific understanding. Already, she has proven to be invaluable in helping UMCES expand our knowledge of the Bay ecosystem for our scientists and the rest of the world.