Oceanographic campaign at ESTOC station boosts scientific research in the Atlantic Ocean

The ESTOC station (European Station for Time-Series in the Ocean of the Canary Islands), located in the Atlantic Ocean near the Canary Islands, has been the site of an oceanographic campaign carried out by the PLOCAN team and the ULPGC. ESTOC is the national ocean observation node of EMSO (European Multidisciplinary Seafloor and water column Observatory), a European network of underwater observatories that contributes to the study of the oceans and their impact on climate and ecosystems.

During this campaign, which lasted several days, the PLOCAN and ULPGC teams worked intensively to refurbish and carry out various activities at the ESTOC station and the FLUCARO (Fluxes in the Canary Region) mooring, which consists of sediment traps. On the first day of the campaign, the team installed the necessary instrumentation in the laboratories of the research vessel Sarmiento de Gamboa and secured the components of the two moorings. In addition, approximately 8000 metres of rope was stowed in the winches on the ship’s main deck due to the depth of the anchorage area, which reaches 3615 metres.

On the second day, the ESTOC station was successfully redeployed thanks to the joint efforts of PLOCAN personnel and the crew of the research vessel Sarmiento de Gamboa. This was followed by water sampling and filtration at both ESTOC and FLUCARO. The FLUCARO sediment traps were also scheduled to be anchored at dawn the following day.

During the third day, the PLOCAN team carried out sampling at ESTOC. These samplings will provide valuable data on pH, pCO2, microplastics, nutrients, oxygen, salinity and temperature, which will contribute to improve the predictions of ocean models used to study climate and ecosystems. In addition, an underwater vision profiler was attached to the sampler, allowing images of particulate matter and zooplankton to be obtained. Finally, the third day saw the successful completion of the FLUCARO mooring with sediment traps at 200m, 500m, 1000m and 1600m depth, current meters, and a hydrophone with a recorder at 175m that will record bioacoustic signals and background noise for a full year.

On the fourth and final day of the campaign, the last physical, chemical and biological samplings were carried out both at ESTOC and at the PLOCAN test site. One of the highlights of the campaign was the acquisition of zooplankton images using the UVP6-HF installed on the CTD/Rossete of the Sarmiento de Gamboa vessel. This sensor, which captures up to 20 images per second in a red light beam, uses artificial intelligence techniques based on shape recognition through deep learning to automatically identify and classify the images.

This oceanographic campaign at ESTOC will advance scientific knowledge about the Atlantic Ocean and its influence on climate and ecosystems. It also demonstrates the commitment of PLOCAN and its partners to research and study of the oceans, contributing to the sustainable development and protection of our marine environment.

The construction of the Sarmiento de Gamboa was financed by the Ministry of Education and Science, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which contributed 59.5% of the total cost, the CSIC, with 20.5%, and the Xunta de Galicia, which covered 20% of the expenses.

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