June 27, 2024

Rising Tide Lifts All Buoys

Collaborative workshop exemplifies the power of partnership in marine research

A group of people looking at an outdoor research exhibit near a body of water

During the Marine Technology Society’s 15th Buoy Workshop in May 2024, PNNL-Sequim hosted its largest campus tour ever.

(Photo by Shanon Dell | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Buoys are critical for various types of marine observations and research. To help inform and support offshore wind energy development, for example, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) deploys lidar buoys that carry scientific instruments to capture a range of atmospheric and oceanographic measurements over extended periods of time. 

An individual standing in a laboratory and speaking to a crowd of people
Jeremy Loretz of Ebb Carbon at PNNL-Sequim, presenting on Ebb Carbon's collaborative work with PNNL in the area of marine carbon dioxide removal. (Photo by Shanon Dell | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Those and similar data can help inform other areas of research, too—including those that could ultimately help researchers build better, lower-maintenance buoys, such as the development of at-sea power sources and materials that can withstand harsh ocean conditions. 

The Marine Technology Society (MTS)—which promotes awareness, understanding, advancement, and application of marine technology—knows that facilitating partnership and knowledge-sharing helps create a feedback loop that benefits individual projects and the maritime community as a whole. 

Every two years, MTS holds a buoy workshop in a different location, offering participants the opportunity to visit with MTS partners and learn about their facilities and research. For its 2024 Buoy Workshop in May, MTS partnered with PNNL and held the event in Sequim, Washington, where the laboratory operates the only marine research facilities in the Department of Energy (DOE) system. 

As workshop partner, PNNL provided the keynote speaker (Division Director of Coastal Sciences Christian Meinig), two full discussion panels, and moderators for additional panels. Many of PNNL’s presentations and discussions focused on the role of buoys in offshore wind and marine energy research and development, but the workshop covered a range of topics, including aquaculture, wave energy conversion, marine sensors, mooring systems, and more. On the third day of the workshop, participants spent the afternoon touring PNNL-Sequim, where staff led the oceanfront campus’s largest-ever tour of 120 people.

A group of people walking up a narrow outdoor staircase.
On the third day of the workshop, 120 participants toured PNNL-Sequim. (Photo by Shanon Dell | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Another first for the workshop was the participation of a local tribal leader as the event’s gala dinner special guest. Loni Grinnell-Greninger, who serves her people as the Vice Chairwoman at the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, departed from the event’s technical subject matter and spoke about her Tribe’s ideals, perspectives, and values related to local land and water resources. 

PNNL also helped MTS acquire funding through the Battelle Philanthropic Fund to offer free workshop attendance to local high school and college students from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged communities. The event gave students the chance to learn about careers and research within the maritime industry, with a focus on regional opportunities in the Pacific Northwest.

"It was an honor to serve as regional partner for the 2024 MTS Buoy Workshop," Meinig said. "The opportunity to meet new researchers and expand existing partnerships helps advance PNNL-Sequim’s goal of becoming a regional hub for marine research in the Pacific Northwest."

A researcher pointing to a piece of scientific equipment.
PNNL Wind Energy Program Manager and Operational Systems Engineering Group Leader Alicia Mahon presents on PNNL wind energy research technologies, including a scaled replica of a DOE research buoy managed by PNNL as part of the laboratory’s Lidar Buoy Program. (Photo by Shanon Dell | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

"Chris Meinig and the PNNL-Sequim staff gave our workshop a warm and thoughtful welcome," said Workshop Co-chair Donald Peters, a principal engineer in the Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. "The chance to visit new centers of research activity, along with the conversations that these workshops foster within the marine research community, are the key elements of their success."

"This was the first time a national laboratory has been so deeply involved in this buoy workshop," said PNNL Wind Energy Program Manager and Operational Systems Engineering Group Leader Alicia Mahon, who helped organize the workshop and is a long-time MTS member (and currently serving as editor of the MTS Journal). "It was a perfect chance to bring the maritime community on site and showcase all that PNNL-Sequim—and the national laboratories in general—can do to help advance marine research and development." 

Learn more about PNNL’s Lidar Buoy Program and the research conducted at PNNL-Sequim.

Published: June 27, 2024