A day in the life of… Chris

by Christopher Matthews

Internship Project: Controlled, Agile and Novel Observing Network (CANON) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Website Development.

Internship Mentor: Nancy Barr (Web/Print Project Manager)

My time here …

For the first week here at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), I was exposed to a wealth of scientific information in a short amount of time. I was overwhelmed with new scientific terms such as Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), Controlled Agile, and Novel Observing Network (CANON), Teleo-Reactive System (T-REX), Decision Support System (DSS), and many more. It was my job to present this information so that a member of the public should have a decent understanding of one of these scientific terms in about three to five minutes.

I was introduced to a wide range of scientists, engineers, and project managers who all agreed that the CANON and AUV websites needed significant updates. In the past, disseminating information on the World Wide Web has not been a high priority. Thus, there is a missed opportunity to show the public just how far MBARI’s technology and research has rapidly progressed over the last few years.

I used Adobe Dreamweaver to design the web pages. Adobe Dreamweaver is an extremely powerful and intuitive program that allows people with limited or advance computer skills to quickly create web content. If you right click on this web page, then go down and click on “View Page Source”, you can see all of the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) used to create the intern blog webpage. The wall of code does look intimidating and very dense to the untrained eye. But Dreamweaver allows a user to edit content using the “design” view, so they can directly write text and images onto the webpage. Dreamweaver will then automatically write the html code necessary for the text and images they inserted. For instance, I can insert an image, then Dreamweaver will write the code for me, which looks like <img src=”image.JPG”>.

An important aspect of web designing is user accessibility. For instance, the images should have alternate (alt) text, such as “Upper Water Column Vehicle in Monterey Bay” (<img src=”image.JPG” alt=”Upper Water Column Vehicle in Monterey Bay”>). This alternate text does not show up on the webpage, but it does allow people with visual impairments to hear a brief description of the image. All of the hyperlinks need to be updated, current, and not broken. Members of the public will leave the site if they cannot access the information they want.

The IAUV on the Zephyr

I went on the research vessel Zephyr on two separate occasions in order to observe the autonomous underwater vehicle in action. I talked to engineer Brett Hobson, who was conducting a survey mission with the Imaging Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (IAUV). The IAUV would take images of sea organisms on the ocean floor by taking one picture every 1.8 seconds. Thousands of high resolution pictures can be overlapped to create a continuous mosaic of the ocean floor. We have AUV technicians on board who program the autonomous underwater vehicle with a mission script to run a specific course on the ocean floor. They also run system checks to ensure that the IAUV and its instruments are functioning properly. The IAUV is deployed off the vessel using the Launch and Recovery System, which is operated by the ship’s crew.

Why

My combined major of environmental studies/economics focuses on conservation, agriculture, and policy. Writing clearly and effectively is a critical and valuable skill needed in the workforce today. It is important that MBARI is able to maintain its position as a world class research center in ocean science and technology by presenting their work. Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies Alan Richards at the University of California Santa Cruz told his students (including me) that they should write as though they had only three minutes to propose an idea to a Chief Executive Officer in the elevator.

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