A Match Made in Florida: Citizens and Scientists Team Up for Research and Education


Teens from StreetWaves deploying a variety of CARTHE drifters near Miami Beach. (Provided by: CARTHE)

What do CARTHE, the International SeaKeepers Society, and Fleet Miami have in common? Ocean research!

Last September, CARTHE researchers from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School partnered with SeaKeepers and Fleet Miami to widen the reach of ocean and oil spill research in the local community. The alliance led a three-day expedition aboard a 54-foot East Bay yacht to test the accuracy of various GPS-enabled surface current drifter models and to introduce students to marine science.

Surface drifters track ocean currents and can help researchers and responders monitor oil’s movement through the ocean following a spill. CARTHE researchers aboard Fleet Miami yacht Shredder deployed and retrieved a variety of surface current drifters, including several biodegradable models.


The CARTHE, Seakeepers, Fleet Miami, and StreetWaves team celebrate a successful experiment. (Provided by: CARTHE)

During the expedition, researchers tested each drifter’s accuracy by monitoring wave height and frequency, water speed, wind speed, and ambient stratification. This data will expand existing ocean current models and help improve emergency response to oil spills, rescue missions, and other disasters.

The team dedicated the expedition’s final day to teaching teenagers about ocean research. The students are members of StreetWaves, a non-profit program in Miami Beach that introduces underprivileged youth to surfing, paddle boarding, and sailing. Aboard Shredder, CARTHE researchers showed the students how the drifters work and explained why data from ocean monitoring devices is so important to ocean health. The students then experienced ocean research first-hand by helping deploy the drifters.


A student watches CARTHE scientist Guillaume Novelli demonstrate how to measure wind with a handheld anemometer. (Provided by: CARTHE)

This exciting expedition was a warm up for CARTHE’s collaborations with SeaKeepers, which the consortia hopes to continue in future research.

Watch CARTHE Outreach Coordinator Laura Bracken describe the Drifter Design Expedition and Outreach.

CARTHE brings together over 50 of the nation’s top ocean experts to share knowledge and explore the fate of the hydrocarbons from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


CARTHE graduate student David Ortiz-Suslow deploying drifters just off the coast of Miami Beach. (Provided by: CARTHE)

The International SeaKeepers Society works directly with the yachting community and enables them to take full advantage of their unique potential to promote ocean research, conservation, and education efforts and to raise awareness about global ocean issues. Watch a video of SeaKeepers’ Highlights for 2014!

More information about these organizations is available on the CARTHE, SeaKeepers, and Fleet Miami Facebook pages!


The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visit http://gulfresearchinitiative.org/.