Ocean Observing

Ocean Observing Research at GERG

RV Gyre and a TABS Buoy


Ocean Sciences has a large inventory of oceanographic equipment and an experienced staff to operate varied global projects. This includes the Texas Automated Buoy System (TABS) — a network in Texas coastal waters recording currents, water properties, and weather data. From coring to moorings to Doppler data collection to Internet displays, Ocean Sciences personnel design and build individualized systems for shallow and deepwater applications.


The Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG) is a multidisciplinary research organization within the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University.  Founded in 1981, GERG has become a center of excellence in the fields of Environmental Sciences, Resource Geosciences and Ocean Sciences.  Areas of particular expertise include:

Ship Board Oceanographic Data Collection

GERG scientists and technicians have a long history of conducting high resolution oceanographic studies in regions ranging from the Arctic to the Antarctic using CTD’s, laboratory analysis, ADCP’s etc.  An example of some major programs, include the four year, nine cruise, Northeastern Gulf of Mexico Chemical Oceanography Program (NEGOM).  Data collection during this intensive sampling program included high quality CTD and ADCP data (38 kHz and 150 kHz), nutrients, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, particulate organic carbon and O2 isotopes. Data were collected and processed on board the ship along with in situ calibration samples of dissolved oxygen and salinity to verify CTD sensors. Scientists, technicians and students worked together over 4 years to collect, organize and analyze data from numerous sources during this program. GERG carried out a similar single cruise program sponsored by the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.  This was a co-operative program between the United States (Texas A&M University/GERG), Mexico (Universidad Veracruzana) and Cuba (Instituto Oceanolgia) which included all of the above CTD, ADCP and chemical analysis, plus a drifter and ALACE float component.  GERG participated in the Deep Gulf of Mexico Benthos Program (DEGOMB) running CTD and ADCP data collection operations.  GERG technicians have conducted CTD and Lowered ADCP operations during NSF sponsored Antarctic expeditions for the last two seasons and will be participating in the upcoming 2011 CLIVAR cruise by analyzing nutrients on board the NB Palmer.

GERG scientists and technicians have taken part in the collection of high quality nutrient and oxygen data in the region impacted by the DWH spill. GERG technicians have assisted with CTD data collection on NOAA and BP sponsored cruises surrounding the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. GERG maintains a large inventory of equipment for at sea data collection including CTD’s, complimentary sensors (PAR, Nutrient, Transmissometers, Fluorometers, DO, etc.), General Oceanics rosettes, Seabird carousels, water sample bottles, flow through systems, 3D navigation system and ADCP’s.

Nutrient and Oxygen Capabilities

For 30 years, the Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M University maintained a team of sea-going chemical technicians with expertise in making high quality nutrient and oxygen measurements on board ship. In 2005 and 2006, that team moved over to GERG where they continue to bring that expertise to GERG projects.  In 2009, The Department of Oceanography and GERG invested in a new six channel Astoria Pacific Autoanalyzer for nutrient measurements and two automated Oxygen titration systems.  Both these systems are now maintained and operated by GERG.  GERG chemical technicians participate in cruises fielded by GERG, TAMU’s Department of Oceanography, as well as other oceanographic institutions such as SCRIPPS Institute of Oceanography and NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab. GERG also participates in international oceanographic nutrient intercalibrations.

During the DWH response, GERG technicians participated in three cruises to run dissolved oxygen samples using automated Winkler titrations. GERG prepares oxygen standards with 0.1% accuracy. GERG has initiated an “in house” oxygen inter-calibration exercise to demonstrate that high accuracies that can be achieved.  This is particularly critical since the amount and extent of the reduction of oxygen concentration caused by the oxidation of methane and petroleum from the DWH plume is an open question worthy of scientific study and long term affects might be subtle. Oxygen measurements of the highest possible accuracy will be required to assess these effects.

Ocean Observations

GERG’s Ocean Science group has operated and maintained TABS (Texas Automated Buoy System), a real time oceanographic buoy system since 1995 measuring winds, waves, currents, salinity and other parameters on the Texas shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. This is one of the oldest and most successful continuous ocean observing systems in the country. Data from TABS contributes to the oil spill response efforts of the Texas General Lands Office as well as to general research efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.  At the conclusion of CY 2010, GERG had made 295 successful buoy system deployments as part of the TABS program with 9 systems still in the water at strategic locations between Port Isabel in the southwest to Sabine Pass in the northeast. TABS is a public resource providing current and historical data to researchers, the Coast Guard and the general public through the TABS web page.

GERG has designed and built several different sizes and types buoy systems including deep water buoy systems with  single point Doppler current sensors and with ADCPs capable of profiling currents to depths greater than 500m. All these buoys measure directional waves, redundant winds, barometric pressure, air temperature and humidity, salinity and water temperature with the capability of measuring additional parameters.  The buoys are capable of real-time data transmission using Globalstar, Iridium or Freewave Radio. Data from these kinds of buoys are useful for real time environmental monitoring, oceanographic research, oil spill trajectory modeling, verifying oceanographic models in near real time, as well as providing data for search and rescue operations, commercial fishing, sport fishing and pleasure boating.

For the last several years GERG has supported TAMU’s scientific programs studying mechanisms that control hypoxia off the coast of Texas and in the Louisiana Dead Zone, by operating two real time ocean observatories measuring dissolved oxygen, nutrients, salinity, waves and ocean currents.  As part of the same program, GERG supplies technicians to conduct shipboard, oxygen and nutrient analysis, CTD operation and Acrobat operation during annual surveys.

Current Meter Moorings

GERG’s current meter mooring group has 30 years of experience designing and deploying current meter moorings in support of numerous circulation projects around the world.  They have successfully designed, built and deployed current meter moorings in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Africa, Canada and in the Antarctic with support from MMS, the Oil Industry, NSF and others.  Moorings designs are simulated using two different modeling programs (WHOI cable and MDD) to ensure that the moorings behave as expected under the most extreme conditions expected at the site.  Moorings are fabricated in house at GERG using materials such as Nilspin wire rope, nylon, synthetic plasma ropes such as Dyneema or Spectra or whatever other material may be best suited for the job. Terminations and rope splices are all load tested and ropes pre stretched to ensure instruments are located at the design depth after the mooring is deployed and under load.  GERG maintains a large inventory of equipment that can be used on moorings including deep and shallow floatation, deep-sea acoustic releases, CTD’s, and current meters that could be quickly mobilized in support of scientific efforts.

Analytical Instrumentation

Ocean Sciences maintains an extensive inventory of oceanographic instrumentation. The following is a sample of our inventory:

  • 20 Aanderaa RCM7 and RCM8 Current Meters
  • 4 Seabird 911 plus CTDs
  • 5 Seabird 19 CTDs
  • 2 Seabird SEACAT CTDs
  • 1 24 bottle General Oceanics rosette sampler for 10-liter bottles
  • 1 12 bottle General Oceanics rosette sampler for 30-liter bottles
  • 2 General Oceans rosette samplers with 12 10-liter bottles
  • 1 Seabird Carousel sampler with 24 10-liter bottles
  • 1 Wetlabs 25cm Transmissometer
  • 2 SeaTech 25cm Transmissometers
  • 2 Chelsea fluorometers
  • 9 Benthos 866A 2000m Acoustic Releases
  • 4 Benthos 865A Acoustic Releases
  • 1 Benthos Acoustic Release deck box
  • 1 RDI 150-kHz Broadband ADCP
  • 1 RDI 300-kHz Sentinel ADCP
  • 1 600 kHz wave guage ADCP
  • 1 RDI 300-kHz Sentinel with a 6000-m pressure case
  • 3 TABS II ocean-observing buoys, with 2 more to be built.
  • 2 Deep-sea cameras
  • Gas Hydrate Recovery Chamber
  • Submersible Sampling Equipment
  • Video editing equipment