How Ocean Science Saves Money by Hitching a Ride

Posted: March 13, 2013  |  By: Jessica Morrison [Boing Boing]

Science funding in the U.S. fluctuates with the whims of Congress, and losing research dollars can mean shuttering a lab for good. So clever ocean scientists have found ways to save money (and time) by outsourcing basic data collection to commercial ships and recreational boats.

Notably, a group of Japanese researchers used these ships, known as Ships of Opportunity, to scour the Pacific Ocean for traces of radioactivity after the March 2011 accidents at Fukushima Dai-Ichi.

Avast! What exactly are these aptly named vessels of high-seas research lore?

“Ships of opportunity go back to basically as long as ships have been at sea,” said Carrie Wolfe, coordinator for NOAA’s Pacific Southwest Ships of Opportunity Program. For instance, 17th and 18th century European explorers collected information about the weather at sea and astronomical phenomena around the globe, , and they carried that valuable, difficult-to-obtain data back to scientists.

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