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Five Questions With: Dwight Coleman

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Dwight Coleman is a marine research scientist and director of the Inner Space Center at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography.

Last month, the school launched Exploration Now, a site that features live streaming video and audio from three marine research vessels. The boats transmit satellite signals to URI that then go up on www.explorationnow.org.

Coleman spoke to Providence Business News about what viewers can see and the future of ocean exploration.

PBN: What can viewers learn from watching the Exploration Now live feeds?

Coleman:Viewers of Exploration Now can watch research and exploration as it's happening - our live feeds run 24/7 and show footage from any of four different vessels around the world. We also stream audio from these ships, so people watching online can hear the scientists and engineers on board the vessels talking amongst themselves, answering questions from viewers, and more. It means that people can follow along with the expeditions from home, and really feel like they are part of the exploration, as it happens. That's a really amazing experience.

PBN: Does your team monitor the feeds 24/7 for discoveries to include in the daily news briefs?

Coleman:That depends on how you define “our team” – on board the ships, people are constantly at work while ROVs are in the water watching the video. They take notes and send them to us daily so we can highlight the best footage on the website and in our daily news pieces. During more regular hours, we have watchstanders on duty here at the Inner Space Center, making sure we're always recording and logging interesting highlights from our videos.

PBN: How can viewers tell what they're seeing and whether they’re watching a discovery in progress?

Coleman:Viewers can hear the explorers on board the ships talking about the exploration, so they can follow along with what's happening on the video. We also have links to each ship's individual site. Those sites have a variety of details about the current missions for each vessel.

PBN: What impact might live-feed technology like this have on ocean exploration?

Coleman: The live feeds allow for much greater participation from shore-based researchers on a broad scale. We are not just limited to a few scientists on each ship being able to identify discoveries and provide documentation. We can now involve up to dozens of live participants that can help with all aspects of ocean research including the identification of biological, geological, chemical, physical, and archaeological discoveries. This technology will allow Exploration Now viewers and the broader public to engage in "citizen science" and allow us to "crowd source" the discoveries and information about them.

PBN: How do you see technology changing ocean exploration and discovery in the next 10 years?

Coleman: I see more ships of exploration coming on line that will have telepresence technology, expanding the content out to greater numbers of people, including the general public. Satellite systems, high bandwidth Internet, and live high definition video streaming technologies will get faster, more robust, and less expensive, allowing more ships to participate. Autonomous vessels and underwater vehicle systems will become more mainstream, with some having capabilities for wireless high bandwidth communications.

Dwight Coleman, URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography

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