Greg Williams reports on SOES6060 Boat work campaign

Time is flying quickly as we are already progressing into Semester 2 of this year’s ECE programme. The first semester has been a busy one. One of our current MSc students Greg Williams looks back and tells us about his experience of Boat Week on board the RV Callista:

This exciting opportunity forms part of the SOES6060 Key Skills and Applied Coastal Oceanography module that aims to ensure proficiency in data collection, analysis and synthesis; using cutting edge instrumentation, coding workshops through MATLAB, and the use of industry standard software. We also receive training in academic and report writing, which are all technical skills important for a future career as a professional marine scientist or in engineering consultancy.

The overriding aim of this year’s boat work campaign was to determine the nature of the Southampton Water system, and how this may relate to an overall management context. We all had our own specific research objectives and therefore we had to ensure that boat time was used in such a way to ensure we all had data of sufficient quality to achieve our individual objectives. My aim was to classify the turbulence based on the Reynold’s number of the system, where greater than 10×105 would indicate a turbulent regime. Such information is important for considering how the system may behave in response to rising sea levels.


Early morning deployment: Final preparations are made to the CTD/Water bottle rosette a head of deployment as Site 1 (at the Dock Head, Southampton)

The week started with boat work planning. We each assigned roles to be undertaken on the day, including ADCP deployment (measuring water velocity using the Doppler shift of particles as  they move through the water column) and operation of the CTD/Water bottle rosette, where Conductivity Temperature and Density measurements permit for other important water characteristics such as salinity and viscosity to be calculated, through the water column. Sediment samples were brought to the surface using a Van Veen grab at each station-operated in much the same way as the CTD set up-whilst people tasked with general logging ensured that all the measurements were placed in context of the wider processes taking place, including boat traffic. Boat traffic resulted in some spurious velocity measurements. We were also lucky to be joined by some of our colleagues from the COMEM MEng program, who would be on hand to process sediment samples, provide additional engineering insight and ensure the kettle was put to good use. I was elected as the project manager, or ‘Primary Investigator’. The role involves communicating the plan to the boat’s skipper, ensuring the trip keeps to schedule and that everyone was confident in performing their roles. Very happy to take on the challenge…how hard can it be?

Early Friday morning, November 10th, we departed for the River Itchen-1 of the 3 major tributaries forming the Southampton Water system. Clear sky conditions overhead, our first objective was to catch the low tide at 9am sharp. Little time could be wasted. The first station did have its teething problems (understandably), and we had an issue in the set up the ADCP and WINRIVER software but this only resulted with a 5 minute delay. Most measurements went without a hitch, apart from some passing river traffic which was likely to affect our velocity measurements. We soon found this was to be a common factor throughout the day.


Primary Investigator: Greg and Scott display varying levels of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) on board. Hard hat and life jacket is essential attire for CTD deployment, the head band is more of a person choice apparently (I stick by it…)

The first few stations were a little cumbersome as the team figured out how to best operate the equipment and work together, but we soon got the hang of it.  In total we had 4 stations to be sampled 3 times. We also had scheduled time to visit the Kemps Bay Marina. This was the proposed site of a marina development we were scoping as part of the ENVS6028 module. A scoping report is standard practice for any major development, and forms part of the EIA Directive 2017 and Town and Country Planning Act 2011, which seek to promote sustainable development in the UK. Such a skill is therefore essential training for work in consultancy. Offshore pictures taken, we continued with the boat work.

All in it together: Michelle takes a break from bakery to sieve through pelagic muddy-clays, typical of the Estuary environment.


Cake is ready!

As we were running ahead of schedule, a lengthy lunch break could be spent at anchor, making most of the clear sky conditions and getting to know each other a little more. All the time, static ADCP measurements were capturing the ‘young flood stand’-a characteristic of the flooding tide unique to the Solent system.   A special shout out has to go to Michelle Gostic who was able to rustle up zucchini bread from scratch on board in the catering quarters-an achievement which is unprecedented. Although this action may not have contributed to furthering the field of science alone, it was most likely this courgetty goodness that had a part to play in us being able to complete the last of the river profile transects in record time. Well done team!


All smiles: Sun begins to set on the team at Empress Dock, Southampton.


Of course, the final task was to take the compulsory boat work group selfie, before tackling our boat work reports.

Post fieldwork data analysis – Ziqi he using a Laser Coulter Sizer to measure Particle size distribution of the bottom sediment.



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