Dataloggers are our science babies

Arley and a temperature/conductivity/pH measuring baby
In my posts here and elsewhere, I mention dataloggers a lot. Dataloggers are the basis of many many types of science. The ones that I use are made to log data on specific environmental variables (temperature, salinity, underwater light, currents) at specific intervals throughout the year (e.g. once every hour). As you may have already guessed, dataloggers are VERY IMPORTANT to our science and we pay a lot of attention to the care and keeping of dataloggers… despite leaving them in the Arctic Ocean for a year.
Light measuring quintuplets ready to be put in their housings
Giving our dataloggers a nice bath before they go in the ocean
What do we want our dataloggers to do?
A) Collect accurate data the whole year
B) Let us read that data
C) Be working so they they can be redeployed to collect another year’s worth of data
Some dataloggers provide ‘real-time’ data via cables or satellite connection. Most, like ours, just store the data internally. This means that in order to successfully see that data, you need to FIND your instrument IN TACT*.
*Note:  Sometimes, dataloggers are designed so that even if it’s broken, your data might still be there. For example, one of our current meters was a casualty of ice gouging the ocean bottom. When we found it, it was broken in two:
Ice is bad for dataloggers!
When we opened the sensor itself, it was damp on the inside and the electronics were fried. BUT by some miracle of Posidon, the SD card that held all the data was readable! From that data, we could see the currents measured until that ice gouge happened. Pretty cool.
In any event, we do a lot of work ensuring that we can find our dataloggers next year and that they will still be working. We have to worry about ‘normal’ stuff for ocean deployments: that they are watertight and can stay in place in strong currents. In the Arctic, we also have to worry about ice gouging pushing stuff around or putting pressure on things. So, we make sure our dataloggers are attached to something SUPER HEAVY, and that they are housed in something very sturdy.
The 10 lb lead anchors for the current meters will also be clipped to heavy metal grates on the seafloor.
Datalogger package ready for deployment: 5 instruments that together measure water depth, temperature, conductivity, salinity, and light. Notice how everything is inside a hard plastic container.
And after we’ve spent hours to days making sure that our dataloggers are working right, that they are nice and cozy and secure in their housing, that they are the right buoyancy, we place them in GPS marked locations, wish them well, and abandon them for 11+ months. We fret about them, but at that point their fate is out of our hands.
Ken worries about abandoning the babies
So dataloggers are our science babies, but we are kinda crappy parents.

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