Lab 1 – The collection of the oceanographic data
Instructor Guide

This lab introduces the Ocean Observatories Initiative system of arrays, platforms and sensors. It also provides essential background on recognizing the geographic locations of the OOI arrays and using latitude/longitude map coordinates. Students will begin to learn about interesting science questions and methods of data collection enabled by the OOI.

Approximate time involved: 2-2.5 hours for the entire lab

Learning outcomes

After completing this lab students will be able to:

  • LO1. Recognize several of the common platforms and sensors used to collect oceanographic data
  • LO2. Locate OOI arrays on a world map by latitude/longitude and ocean basin name
  • LO3. Determine latitude and longitude for locations
  • L04. Identify OOI tools used in examples of scientific research

Learning OutcomeIntroductionActivity 1Activity 2Activity 3Activity 4
LO1IntroducedIntroduced and appliedGuided practice
LO3Introduced, Guided Practice, AppliedGuided practice
LO4IntroducedGuided practice


Materials needed

For Activities 1.2 and 1.3, you may want to print out a world map with latitude and longitude for students to work with when locating arrays.


What students should know before this activity

  • Data skills: Basic map reading, including distance scale bars, recognition of ocean basins and continents
  • Content knowledge: Students do not need specialized content knowledge for this lab

What instructors should know before this activity

Optional pre-lab activities:

Prior to Activity 1.3, introduce latitude and longitude with a world map exercise. Have students find various ocean basin features based on lat/long and have the students provide the lat/long for various features.

Teaching notes

Each of the lab activities have Quick Check interactive question(s) that students can use to review information and/or check their understanding. While these are not meant to be graded question, there are questions within the lab that use the knowledge checked in these questions.

Lab 1.1

Undergraduates are often fascinated by all the technology that we use in the oceans.  Additional information on  OOI instruments can be shared with students. The introductory text of this activity can be assigned as reading, adapted as an in-class lecture or made into a group research and peer sharing activity.

Lab 1.2

This activity emphasizes the geographic locations on maps and of the OOI arrays. Many students may have trouble with oceanographic maps because they emphasize ocean features instead of features on land.  Often students think the ocean should be 1 color and the land multiple colors because that is what they are most familiar with and regularly see on the local news/weather reports.  Understanding the latitude and ocean basin of the arrays is important for interpreting data in other labs within this collection. The interpretation questions deliberately connect the array locations to oceanographic processes that students are likely to encounter later in an oceanography course. The application questions have students apply their knowledge of identifying basic geography on oceanographic maps or diagrams.

Lab 1.3

Latitude and Longitude should be introduced prior to moving on to other labs. Many students entering an introductory course have limited or no experience locating places by latitude and longitude coordinates. You may also want to discuss map projections, although we do not use these in this lab activity.  It’s always nice to start out with a large world map and then zoom in on a specific area.  Teach the students to pay attention to the scales of each map since they will vary.  Students will need additional practice with finding latitude and longitude beyond this activity to become proficient.  This activity is meant to be an introduction with some guided practice.

Students often confuse cardinal direction (N, S, E, W) or leave it off completely.  It is important to emphasize that numbers without a direction for a location mean nothing.  Perhaps give them some examples by providing lat/long degrees and minutes to a location without the direction to demonstrate that they may come up with different locations without the direction.

Most of the exercises in the lab include degrees and minutes, but not seconds because of the size of the images.  However, you may encourage them to be more specific to seconds or use a local nautical chart and have them find latitude and longitude for various locations.

In addition, you can provide lat/long for various locations and have students plot them on a paper map, or with various mapping software (GeoMapApp, Google Earth, Google Maps, etc…

Lab 1.4

This activity introduces an example of scientific results from OOI array and asks students to identify the platforms and sensors used in these research examples. Students apply knowledge of sensors, array locations and latitude/longitude from the previous activities in this lab.

The following article by Barth et al. (2018) includes the eclipse story on pages 95-96, with a nice graphic of the bioacoustic sensor output plus a time series of light levels (see Figure 6). The article also discusses the research that motivated the investigation of anoxia on the Oregon shelf in Lab 8.

  • Barth, J.A., J.P. Fram, E.P. Dever, C.M. Risien, C.E. Wingard, R.W. Collier, and T.D. Kearney. 2018. Warm blobs, low-oxygen events, and an eclipse: The Ocean Observatories Initiative Endurance Array captures them all. Oceanography 31(1):90-97.

Extensions of these activities

Lab 1.1 extenstion

As an extension of this activity you could have students work in groups or individually to research underwater technologies.  They can then informally present information in class, or post to a discussion board  (Sample Underwater Technology Discussion with Rubric).

Lab 1.3 extenstion

Use local nautical charts to identify local navigation hazards, interesting features, etc…

In addition, you can provide lat/long for various locations and have students plot them on a paper map, or with various mapping software (GeoMapApp, Google Earth, Google Maps, etc…  However, if they are using software, you will have to explain the conversion to decimal degrees as well as using negative numbers for South and West locations. There are various online converters to decimal degrees that students can use. As an extension of this activity and an introduction to using Google Earth with some basic plate tectonics go to Introduction to Google Earth and Plate Tectonics Activity

On a larger map [Scott Resources & Hubbard Scientific Sea Floor Physiography: 100 Sheets Note Pad are great for students] have students identify major ocean features

Major ocean features

On the World ocean map, locate the following features and label them using the numbers below for labeling (rather than trying to write in the names of the features on the map) and include a list of the names with the letters that represent them (i.e. copy key for below) Use multiple number-labels for large features that may cover a large distance


1) Mid-Atlantic Ridge 2) East Pacific Rise
3) Red Sea 4) Aleutian Trench and Islands
5) Peru-Chile Trench 6) Andes Mountains
7) Himalayan Mountains 8) Hawaiian Islands
9) Galapagos Islands 10) Iceland
11) Mariana Trench 12) East African Rift Zone
13) Puerto Rico Trench 14) Emperor Seamounts
15) Java Trench 16) Japan Trench

Another add on activity is to have students find the distance between two moorings or locations in nautical miles, kms and statute miles using longitude.

Lab 1.4 extenstion

Browse more OOI science highlights here: As an optional extension of this activity, we recommend the “Pinocchio’s Nose” story involving water masses at the Pioneer array:

  • Background: The Gulf Stream is a major warm, salty ocean current that travels northward along the U.S. east coast. However, this warm water rarely moves onto the shallow area of the ocean closer to shore known as the continental shelf, which typically contains colder, less salty water. Certain types of fish, and their plankton prey, congregate at the boundaries of the warmer and colder water masses that meet at the edge of the continental shelf. This makes these water mass boundaries (called “fronts”) ecologically important.
  • Activity: Read about how OOI data helped scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute study the interaction of Gulf Stream and continental shelf waters. Then answer the following questions:
    • Which OOI array did the scientists use to study the water masses at the edge of the continental shelf?
    • The warm water intrusion nicknamed “Pinocchio’s nose” is visible in satellite imagery. What platform did the scientists use to map this feature under the surface of the ocean?
    • What two types of sensors could the scientists use to distinguish between Gulf Stream water and continental shelf water?
  • This 9-minute video by WHOI presents related science questions about primary productivity at the shelf break front: It showcases science aboard a research vessel and briefly mentions the Pioneer array.

For advanced extensions of  Lab1.4 highlights, see the related Data Nuggets:

The Data Nuggets are curated data sets and visualizations from OOI and include direct access to the underlying data as well as Python notebooks for producing the visualizations. They are particularly suited for an advanced application in an introductory class or for an upper-level oceanography course.

Associated resources

Ocean Observatories Initiative website:

University of Washington Interactive Oceans website (focuses on the cabled array, lots of useful images and videos of instruments and research cruises):