John Delaney studies the physical, chemical and biological interactions found in the mid-ocean ridge system, specifically on the deep-sea volcanoes along the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the northeast Pacific Ocean. It's a complex, changeable world (that's also quite hard to get to). As part of the NSF's Ocean Observatories Initiative, Delaney is spearheading a bold new plan to gather unprecedented amounts of oceanic data.
Starting this year, Delaney and his team at the University of Washington are implanting robotic sensor arrays along the Juan de Fuca Ridge and other ocean sites, on the ocean floor and throughout the water column, all linked to the Internet via submarine electro-optical cables. The system will document and measure once-inaccessible phenomena such as erupting volcanoes, migration patterns, submarine slumps, undersea earthquakes and storms -- and it will feed that data into ever-richer computer models of ocean behavior.