Friday, July 13, 2012

Stan Cutler's Research Experiences for Teachers - Summer 2012 - Part 4

Weeks 4 & 5 (July 2-13) 

Over the past two weeks, I have spent most of my time at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Institute (GFDI). The GFDI is a “hidden gem” at FSU; hidden due to its location in the basement of the Keen building, but a gem due to its storied history and current energy and growth. The Institute was formed in 1967 with a $600,000 Naval Research Contract as part of Project THEMIS (named after the ancient Greek goddess of cooperation), supported by the Department of Defense and the Centers of Excellence program. Its labs have brewed simulations of hurricanes, the Gulf Stream, the jet stream, and convection in earth’s interior. Investigations of atmospheric waves and circulations, studies of the influence of mountains on the jet stream, and modeling of convection, ocean circulation, hurricanes, stratospheric warming, and climate are just a few of the many undertakings that have occurred in the GFDI.

Dr. Kevin Speer discusses wave theory and how to interpret data.
Two words can describe the current philosophy of the lab: student centered. The graduate students, under the direction of Dr. Kevin Speer (GFDI Director), have a whole bunch of exciting ideas, and they seem to have a great degree of freedom in pursuing these ideas. The GFD Ph.D. program has an interdisciplinary, unique curriculum that includes observations, lab experiments, and numerical modeling. Current research includes hurricanes, turbulence, wildfire dynamics, air-sea interactions, groundwater flow, coastal processes, climate dynamics, and biogeochemical cycling through the sea floor. Dr. Daniel Kuncicky, Dr. Cathrine Hancock, and Elizabeth Simons are preparing satellite-tracked “drifters” that will soon be deployed in the Southern Ocean, on a shelf off Antarctica. Carlowen Smith, guided by Dr. Speer, is working with large-scale zonal jets, and is preparing to use the large, rotating annulus to study these phenomena. Jason Callaghan is working with Dr. Ming Ye on karst hydrogeology, and Aaron Paget is working with Dr. Mark Bourassa on surface wave interactions with the atmosphere. The two Young Scholars working in the lab have had access to the new Nortek Vectrino II, a profiling velocimeter that takes high resolution observations of boundary layer dynamics and turbulence. I am very impressed by the enthusiasm and energy of GFDI, and look forward to following the research that will be taking place in the near future.

Dr. Felicia Coleman gave an excellent presentation to the RET/REUs.
I was finally able to visit the FSU Coastal & Marine Laboratory (FSUCML) on Thursday. Dr. Felicia Coleman, the facility Director, gave an impassioned talk to the visiting RET/REUs about the threats to the Gulf of Mexico, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We were able to tour the facility, and learn about the new Research Vessel, which will be the flagship of the FSUCML fleet when delivered in November. I stayed for the evening Conservation Lecture Series seminar (open to the public the second Thursday of each month) by Dr. Mark Albins. His presentation on the invasive Pacific red lionfish was extremely interesting, and his well-planned experiments will definitely be shared with my students when we discuss the scientific method this year!

I also helped out in GFDI this week with testing of the “drifters” that will soon be on their way to Antarctica. Stay tuned next week as I update these experiments, and feel free to send a sweatshirt or some long johns to help these drifters stay warm! 

Testing the drifters on the roof of the Keen building.
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Stan Cutler


  1. Christopher A GillardJuly 20, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    I placed some drifters in the equatorial region in 2001 with Jim Farrington from NOAA. Is the lab using NOAA to deploy their drifters? I was on a run from New York to Capetown and data along that route is sparse. We launched XBTs and did our wx observations every 3 hours when we were in the zone from 10 N to 10 S. Now with sat-c and Internet on the ships I still do wx obs every 3 hours. That is one good thing that came out of satellite comms. That lab sounds very interesting you know what a wx geek I am. Is that research in the wave/atmosphere boundary to measure wave height from satellite radar data?

  2. I know you are really into wx! We haven't used NOAA (though maybe back in 2001?) to deploy...we've been renting out vessels (Pelican, Bellows, Weatherbird....). That may soon change...the FSU Coastal Marine Lab is set to put their own new ship into service by January. No XBT's in our lab either. They've mostly used CTD castings, though they are testing out some new drifters (technically floats) that will soon be deployed. I will check on the wave/atmosphere wave height data...I believe most of it comes from instruments on "K" tower (I unfortunately didn't get out to it this summer).