Environmental Monitoring Technologies for Marine Energy


Project: Electromagnetic Field Detection
The WHOI EMF detection system being   deployed off the R/V Strait Science in    October 2017. Photo by PNNL MSL.


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is modifying one of its deep-sea sensors designed to detect the earth’s natural electromagnetic fields (EMF) for use in shallow waters to detect signatures from cables and MRE devices installed under water. The Institution is investigating the direct and indirect effects of marine energy systems on electric and magnetic fields. Filling this knowledge gap is important because certain crustaceans, fish, marine mammals, and turtles use the earth’s magnetic field for orientation and navigation. Additionally, many elasmobranchs may use electric field disturbances to locate prey and mates. The need? A research-grade instrument that can identify the source, strength, and variation of EMFs to determine if marine energy devices create signatures that produce adverse effects in electrosensitive or magneto-sensitive animals.




The WHOI-developed EMF detection system can be used to characterize the electromagnetic environment of the sea floor around marine energy systems and those data can be used to model EMFs through the water column. This innovative instrument has the unique ability to measure vector rather than just scaler quantities, allowing researchers to capture both direction and strength of electromagnetic fields. This is considered a state-of-the-art technology since there is currently no commercial source for oceanic electromagnetic instruments—especially those with electric field components.


WHOI deployed the EMF devices for a baseline in November 2017, with plans to test again in 2019.


Triton’s contributions:


  • R/V Strait Science
  • Boat crew
  • Permitted Sequim Bay site
  • Scientific dive team to set up the cable
  • Personnel help to set up and deploy
  • Onshore assistance
  • EMF simulations including a lay cable and control output
  • An acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP)
  • Data backup storage