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Published October 31, 2011 | Published
Journal Article Open

Quantitatively Measuring In situ Flows using a Self-Contained Underwater Velocimetry Apparatus (SCUVA)


The ability to directly measure velocity fields in a fluid environment is necessary to provide empirical data for studies in fields as diverse as oceanography, ecology, biology, and fluid mechanics. Field measurements introduce practical challenges such as environmental conditions, animal availability, and the need for field-compatible measurement techniques. To avoid these challenges, scientists typically use controlled laboratory environments to study animal-fluid interactions. However, it is reasonable to question whether one can extrapolate natural behavior (i.e., that which occurs in the field) from laboratory measurements. Therefore, in situ quantitative flow measurements are needed to accurately describe animal swimming in their natural environment. We designed a self-contained, portable device that operates independent of any connection to the surface, and can provide quantitative measurements of the flow field surrounding an animal. This apparatus, a self-contained underwater velocimetry apparatus (SCUVA), can be operated by a single scuba diver in depths up to 40 m. Due to the added complexity inherent of field conditions, additional considerations and preparation are required when compared to laboratory measurements. These considerations include, but are not limited to, operator motion, predicting position of swimming targets, available natural suspended particulate, and orientation of SCUVA relative to the flow of interest. The following protocol is intended to address these common field challenges and to maximize measurement success.

Additional Information

© 2011 JoVE. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. This research is supported by the National Science Foundation awarded to JOD (OCE-0623475), SPC (OCE-0623534 and 0727544), and JHC (OCE-0727587 and OCE-0623508), and by the Office of Naval Research awarded to JHC (N000140810654). KK is supported by the Postdoctoral Scholar Program at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, with funding provided by the Devonshire Foundation.

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