Experiential marine geology and geophysics education, White Oak Bayou, University of Houston-Downtown

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Advanced marine technology is an essential tool used for delivering answers to science-driven questions in underwater environments. Using state of the art technology outdoors encourages intrinsic motivation and provides major opportunities not possible in a laboratory. The University of Houston-Downtown is uniquely situated on the banks of the Buffallo and White Oak Bayous, in closer proximity to an aquatic environment than many world-class marine institutions. Ordinarily, marine research and education focusses on the nearest ocean, lagoon or accessible sea area. We are able to conduct hands-on marine education in a safe shore-based location that is on campus, allowing more of the total time allocated to this activity to be spent learning and operating the equipment rather than traveling. Preliminary underwater investigations of a region of White Oak Bayou that is easily accessible on the campus waterfront were completed in February of 2016 in order to create interest in exploration of natural, and human-made, structures in the local bayou. A Predator (Seatronics Inc., an Acteon company) remotely operated vehicle (ROV) mounted with high-resolution Teledyne Blueview Technologies M900-130 900 kHz 2D multibeam sonar, and optical-video systems was used as a survey vehicle. Where visibility was too low to use optical imaging details of the bayou floor were recorded by the multibeam system. The acquired sonar data clearly images fish, large boulders, and several objects that could be hazardous to even shallow-draft boats and recreational water users. Moving the ROV closer to the submerged features allowed visual inspection and analysis of the video images. The students flying the ROV demonstrated our ability to map the bayou floor, evaluate its ecosystem, detect potential hazards, and identify features of interest. Our methodology, where advanced technologies are sourced from industry partners, provides a practical approach that enables high impact educational experiences for students without necessitating the development of long-term programs, thereby leveraging both valuable research funds and outreach opportunities. A central theme of this work is research experiences for students, who would learn workflows, the scale of operations, and challenges involved in exploratory research.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Underwater Intervention 2017

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