SF's Exploratorium offers up-close look at ocean research

Byby Timothy Didion and Dan Ashley via KGO logo
Friday, August 10, 2018
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For much of the year, the research ship Reuben Lasker sails the high seas for NOAA. But this week it's docked on San Francisco's Embarcadero.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- For much of the year, the research ship Reuben Lasker sails the high seas for NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But this week it's docked on San Francisco's Embarcadero, just a few feet from the Exploratorium. And Commander Chad Cary says there's intense interest in the crews' work.

"Oh yeah, everyone's paying attention right now to climate, to the changing oceans, to the changing species," explained Cary.

RELATED: Why we should learn more about oceans this Ocean Discovery Month

Below deck, researcher Juan Swolinski is tracking those species from big to small using a sophisticated audio equipment. The signals literally paint a picture of what's around the research vessel.

"Because we have a multi-frequency system, we can get reflections off of small animals," says Swolinski.

The Reuben Lasker is currently plying the West coast from the tip of Vancouver Island to San Diego. An onboard lab allows researchers to examine and catalogue hundreds of species of fish and marine life. Besides establishing the health of their ecosystem, they're also on the lookout for subtle shifts caused by factors like climate change.

"Species like false killer whale and pigmy killer whale that typically you would have to go hundreds of miles south along the Baja coast to find," says NOAA researcher Jim Carretta.

The public is now able to get a close up look at their work. NOAA is offering tours in partnership with the Exploratorium, which is launching its Ocean Discovery Month. Giving visitors a chance to sail along the cutting edge of marine science.

"You get a chance to see NOAA's newest research vessels, which has only been in operation for a few years and its fully equipped with the latest technology to collect as much data as possible per nautical mile," says Commander Cary.

If you're interested in the tours and Ocean Discovery Month, the Exploratorium has information on its website.