Underwater Studies Looking Up With Lookdown
Mapping the seafloor of the Chester River is a priority for the College’s Center for Environment & Society as part of its long-term goal to better understand the riverine system and its parent, the Chesapeake Bay. A purpose-built platform like Lookdown will make this work more efficient, accurate and instructive for College students.
“To have a boat dedicated to underwater mapping at an undergraduate institution, which will equip students with experience to rival that of graduate institutions, is extremely rare,” says Douglas Levin, CES associate director. A former scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Levin knew about the boat’s mapping abilities and realized the research opportunities it would bring to Washington College students. To conduct underwater mapping for NOAA, Lookdown—formerly a fast, heavy-duty Coast Guard port security vessel (bullet-proof hull and all)—underwent an upgrade that included adding extensive sonar equipment and a custom-built aluminum cabin.
Lookdown’s captain, Michael Gosman, says another bonus is the boat’s size. Small and versatile, it needs few crew and is easily hauled from the water and trailered to different research areas. “Lookdown’s small size will also allow scientists to map and conduct research on delicate coastal environments which were not previously accessible using larger research vessels,” Gosman says. “This type of technology will allow for strategic environmental planning as well as invaluable research experience.”