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QPS Client Spotlight: Ocean Exploration Trust

The Ocean Exploration Trust is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2008 by Dr. Robert Ballard with three overarching goals: (1) Exploration of the world’s oceans to better understand the geological, biological, chemical, physical, and historical aspects of our planet; (2) Innovation of new advanced technologies to make exploration more efficient and more effective than ever before; and, (3) Education of the next generation of leaders in science, technology, engineering, and math, by using the excitement of exploration to inspire and motivate learners of all ages. To address these goals, the Trust undertakes annual expeditions on board its Exploration Vessel Nautilus using advanced robotic and telepresence technologies, and streams the exploration live to the internet, schools, after-school programs, museums, aquariums, and science centers to complement a growing program in community-based STEM education.

Figure 1. E/V Nautilus (Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)

How Ocean Exploration Trust uses QPS software

The Ocean Exploration Trust uses Fledermaus software to support its science, operations, education, and telepresence missions. Nautilus is equipped with an EM302 multibeam sonar and Knudsen sub-bottom profiler. Wherever the ship sails, we map the seafloor, both opportunistically as we transit from one site to the next, and to survey a particular area of interest to identify remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive sites. The Fledermaus software package allows us to visualize the data and create products for many needs.

In our exploration, the rapid analysis of data is important to make informed decisions about dive sites. Digital elevations models, often draped with the backscatter data or with added water column features, are used by scientists to identify areas of interest. Scientists will choose areas with unusual geological features, hydrocarbon plumes and seeps, or other features of interest and use Fledermaus to pick out waypoints for ROV navigation. The FM Midwater detection tools were particularly helpful in identifying new seeps in several recent cruises, including off the coast of southern California in August 2015. Scientists were able to map an area and rapidly identify the source location of the seep for an ROV dive, and along with three other new seep discoveries on this cruise suggests that methane seepage is wider spread in the region than previously thought.

The navigation and data teams, often mostly undergraduate students learning Fledermaus for the first time, create base maps with contours for our navigation software and export KMLs of the bathymetry to share with scientists on shore. The science watchstanders will sometimes use the real-time feed of ship and ROV positions within a Fledermaus scene to track and direct the dive progress. This 3D feed is sent out over our Nautilus Live website providing the public and scientists on shore with a geographic and bathymetric context for the ROV location. Having the ability to fly around the dive site enhances our outreach efforts as the Watch Lead can use this feature to periodically provide a “tour” of the dive site for the Nautilus Live viewers, while explaining the geological history and dive objectives.

The video-making functionality is another effective outreach tool. After we map an area, we are able to create fly-throughs that synthesize all of our data products including sub-bottom and water column data to allow scientists to piece together an understanding of the geology of an area or to share with a public audience for learning purposes. For example, we had an Artist at Sea, whose work is inspired by multibeam bathymetric data, sail on board Nautilus in July. She projected the wire-mesh grid surface of the volcanoes and canyons we mapped onto a canvas to guide her painting. She also worked on creating a video fly-through from the areas we mapped to complement her future exhibit.

OET is looking at incorporating QPS’s latest software, Qimera, into its standard procedures to improve sonar data processing.

"We used Qimera on a mapping transit from the Galapagos Islands to San Diego and were excited about its seamless functionality. The intuitive user interface of Qimera will allow us to quickly train interns, who have a wide variety of educational backgrounds and abilities, to process sonar data and create mission-critical data products."

To learn more about OET and Nautilus, visit or to join our exploration cruises live visit 

Special thank you to Nicole Raineault of OET for content. 

Figure 2. A new seep discovered off the coast of California, identified using the FM Midwater tool. (Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)

Figure 3. Lead scientist Dr. Larry Mayer monitors the ROV progress in real-time using Fledermaus, while standing watch during a dive at the Galapagos Rift. (Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)

Figure 4. A newly discovered seafloor feature mapped west of Mexico. (Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)

Figure 5. A map created of this U-boat 2513 off the coast of Florida was used to guide the ROV exploration of the wreck. (Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)

Do you have a QPS story to share? If so, please email us! We would love to highlight your work using our software as a News Item or Client Spotlight.


QPS Client Spotlight: Ocean Exploration Trust



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