Geology Professor and Class are Part of Ground-Breaking Pilot Program

College of Charleston geology professor Leslie Sautter is currently on a research ship about 265 miles off the Oregon coast as part of a team of oceanographers streaming the first live underwater video of a volcano that erupted in April 2011.

Sautter will broadcast live at 9:30 a.m. on August 30 and September 1, 2011 from the University of Washington Research Vessel Thomas G. Thompson. The August 30 broadcast will focus on hydrothermal vents and sulfide chimneys and the September 1 broadcast will focus on the technologies being used to study the ocean. The program will also be broadcast on the web in standard definition for free at All of the broadcasts are being taped, so that they may be used again and again, potentially by millions of students around the world.

Sautter’s marine geology class at the College of Charleston is the pilot classroom for this project, called VAST (VISIONS At-Sea Telepresence). The class will be watching one of a limited number of high definition video streams of Sautter’s live broadcasts from the ship. They will have the opportunity to interact with the scientists and engineers in real-time. In addition to the live broadcast, the marine geology class students are also piloting the use of an online curriculum that Sautter developed that specifically relates to the underwater volcano, Axial Seamount.

The purpose of the VISIONS ’11 cruise is to prepare for, survey, and assess the on-going installation of a cabled network of instruments that will be used to study the Southern Hydrate Ridge and Axial Seamount, two primary study sites within the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). The cabled network is scheduled for completion in 2014.

The OOI is planned as a networked infrastructure of science-driven sensor systems to measure the physical, chemical, geological and biological variables in the ocean and seafloor. The OOI will be one fully integrated system collecting data on coastal, regional and global scales. OOI technology is expected to revolutionize the way oceanography is conducted. The major implementing organizations and their partners for the OOI include the University of California at San Diego, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Oregon State University, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Washington, and Rutgers University.

“I don’t know if words can get across how absolutely ground-breaking and paradigm-shifting the OOI is, and will be, for ocean science in the next 20 years,” says Leslie Sautter, College of Charleston geology professor. “Technology has advanced to the point that we can now monitor the ocean and the seafloor ‘in situ,’ or in place as it is happening, and that information can now be transmitted back to land in real-time. The OOI will use sensors, robots, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), nanotechnology, and even sophisticated instrumentation such as mass spectrometers deployed and moored in the oceans.”

For more information, Leslie Sautter can be reached at