Ocean Research Project announces plans for aerial drone glacier mapping and oceanographic survey in Greenland

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Following a recent ocean science expedition that took record-setting sailor and Ocean Research Project (ORP) founder, Matthew Rutherford, and ORP field operations scientist, Nicole Trenholm, to the waters of Yokohama, Japan for a first-ever continent to continent marine debris survey - ORP marked its two-year anniversary at Heavy Seas Brewery on October 17th, asserting plans to use drones to survey a major outlet glacier in Greenland while collecting nearby ocean heat information by ship to distinguished guests, including Senator Tom Harkin and Governor Martin O’Malley.

According to Rutherford and Trenholm, it’s “the next natural step in the future of ocean research” and a mission they intend to carry out. In their continuous efforts to reduce costs and maintain a “green” sailing-based data collection program, the burgeoning nonprofit has teamed up with Intuitive Machines – an engineering solutions company from Houston Texas, and chosen polar geophysicist Jamin Greenbaum, from the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, as principal investigator in preparation for an oceanographic and glaciological survey planned for 2015.

"Together, Ocean Research Project and Intuitive Machines stand to disrupt the way sensitive arctic coastal areas are monitored by applying highly-capable autonomous vehicles [drones] and inexpensive surface ships with long dwell times and low carbon footprints,” said Greenbaum. “I believe they stand to become a model for how baseline monitoring will be done in the coming years."

Greenbaum, said Rutherford, is no stranger to data collection in the Arctic, having previously managed flight operations and equipment integration for polar geophysical surveying. “Jamin joins us at a very critical time, not just for our organization but for the prospect of ocean science research and education at large… By employing drones for long-term monitoring of changing glacier systems,” Trenholm explained, “we will be able to observe glacial behavior on timescales that are unattainable with traditional platforms.”

ORP’s next expedition to Greenland's east coast will see the enterprising threesome conducting a near-simultaneous oceanographic and glaciological survey of the Sermilik Fjord–Helheim Glacier system in Southeast Greenland. Using unpiloted aerial vehicles and hydrographic survey equipment, the team will collect data that they hope will help relate coastal glacier retreat to oceanographic heat.

Rutherford explains that Ocean Research Project is actively seeking sponsorship but is happy with their progress, to date. "We now have the aerial and marine platforms that can do the job so with only a little more support for operational costs we'll be ready to deploy them. We have more work to do before we can sail but we have already won the trust and support of key organizations and individuals that share our belief that we should be monitoring the health of the ocean where climate change threatens to make lasting change."

The team’s progress can be tracked online at www.oceanresearchproject.org.
PHOTO CAPTION: (Left to right) Videographer Zack Nissan Shields, Senator Tom Harkin, Ocean Research Project (ORP) field operations scientist Nicole Trenholm, ORP founder Matthew Rutherford, ORP principal investigator Jamin Greenbaum, and Governor Martin O’Malley, pictured on October 17th at Heavy Seas Brewery in Halethorpe, MD.