Deep sea research was an eye opener for URI student – URI News


KINGSTON, RI – August 23, 2022 – When Phil Parisi boarded the research vessel Atlantis this summer for an expedition to the Puerto Rico Trench, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

Parisi, who is pursuing a master’s degree in ocean engineering at the University of Rhode Island, joined URI Professor Christopher Roman and a team of scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for his first deep sea research experience.

“I was in awe of the massive operation it took to do science on the high seas,” Parisi said. “It was amazing to see the life that exists in the deepest parts of the ocean. It’s fun to learn about the wild creatures that survive there, but surprising how little we know about it. on them.

The main purpose of the trip was to use the deep autonomous profiler, which is an untethered deep-sea lander platform that can travel thousands of meters through the water column, land on the seabed, then release its weights and rise to the surface, operating autonomously for hours.

Professor Christopher Roman works on the deep autonomous profiler under the watchful eye of Allison Heater of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Photo courtesy of Roman Lab/URI.

Assembled in Roman’s lab in 2018, the profiler saw its third set of Puerto Rico Trench dives this trip, marking its fifth overall deployment. On this occasion, the autonomous deep profiler went further than before, reaching the seabed at a depth of 7,960 meters.

Parisi’s role was to keep the hardware of the system running smoothly, while Roman handled the software side.

“I would test communications with acoustic triggers, set up drop weights, cock Niskin bottles, and turn electrical systems on and off,” said Parisi, who is from Naperville, Illinois. “We also added a downward facing camera and bait to record deep sea life in action. I reviewed the images and passed them on to interested researchers on board. There were hundreds of amphipods, a handful of decapods, an isopod and a pair of brush eels.

Parisi earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Marquette University in Milwaukee. After a sabbatical year, he decided to continue his studies at URI.

A giant amphipod was recovered from the Puerto Rico trench and brought back to the lab. Photo by Phil Parisi.

“I really wanted to work with autonomous systems while being able to interact with nature,” Parisi said. “Ocean engineering ticked my boxes and URI maintains a strong reputation for ocean research.”

The Puerto Rico trench expedition provided Parisi with the hands-on experience he desired.

“I learned about the development and operation of autonomous systems, which is my favorite area in graduate school,” Parisi said. “Field testing never goes as planned and we often have to adapt to unexpected new challenges as they arise.”


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