Oceanography for All: The Open CTD Project

Thursday, August 15, 2013
CTD Device: Photo credit the project

Marine scientists measure conductivity, temperature, and depth (CTD) to unlock ocean patterns hidden beneath the waves using a tool called the CTD, which is found on almost every major research vessel. Two scientists believe the prohibitive cost of a CTD (can be as much as $25,000) is an unacceptable barrier to open science, and they are working to produce a version for less than $200.

The two scientists, Andrew Thaler and Kersey Sturdivant, are working on a project called 'Oceanography for Everyone – The Open CTD' – which is built on a platform using readily available parts and is powered by an Arduino-based microcontroller. Their goal is to create a device that is accurate enough to be used for scientific research and can be constructed for less than $200. Source codes, circuit diagrams, and building plans will be freely available.

The final instrument will be effective to 200 meters depth.   Why 200 meters? For many coastal regions, 200 meters of water depth covers the majority of the ocean that is accessible by small boat. The OpenCTD is targeted to people working in this niche, where entire research projects can be conducted for less than the cost of a commercial CTD. However, the Open CTD is scalable, and anyone with the inclination can adapt the plans so as to operate in deeper waters. 

The first functional prototype has been made, but it still needs to be calibrated and tested. After the OpenCTD completes its sea trials, the Thaler and Sturdivant will prepare their results for peer-review in an open-access scientific journal, which will lend authority to any scientist planning to use the OpenCTD for scientific research. They say they will also produce an eBook that provides detailed instructions for the construction of an OpenCTD.

The project is still seeking funds: to donate go to http://www.rockethub.com/projects/26388-oceanography-for-everyone-the-openctd/checkout/goods

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