New Wave Media

January 19, 2021

WHOI Appoints Douglas C. Webb as Oceanographer Emeritus

Douglas C. Webb (Photo: Teledyne)

Douglas C. Webb (Photo: Teledyne)

Douglas C. Webb, founder of Teledyne Webb Research, has been appointed as Oceanographer Emeritus at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, effective January 1, 2021. This peer appointed honorary position has been bestowed upon Doug Webb in recognition of his contributions to WHOI and to oceanographic science and engineering world-over.

When asked about the appointment, Dr. Richard Murray, Deputy Director and Vice President for Research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution commented, “Throughout his career, Doug Webb elegantly crossed and merged the boundaries of science and technology, all the while setting a terrific example of how to be farsighted to the future while also getting whatever is before him simply “done”. It is a true honor for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to grant him this honorary and esteemed appointment.”

Although always quick to acknowledge the contributions of others, Doug is a gifted engineer and inventor whose pioneering work can be credited for fundamentally changing the way in which scientists are now able to observe the interior of the oceans. From his graduate work at Manchester University, where he demonstrated the first prototype transistorized computer, Doug brought individual transistor technology with him to WHOI where he developed accurate timing for acoustically tracking langrangian floats (integrated circuits were not yet available). Throughout his career, Doug has been an early adopter of enabling technologies (i.e. silicon chips, ceramic transducers, satellite communications, GPS, etc.), and continually brought those technologies to bear to solve a set of problems that helped resolve ocean dynamics.

Doug recognized early on that one of the key hurdles facing the oceanographic community and data collection was the ocean’s grand scale and the limited size of the research fleet. He set out to develop and create a toolbox of long-endurance remote sensing platforms that would provide scientists with a better look into the world’s vastly under-sampled oceans. His innovative work includes low-frequency acoustic sound sources used for water mass tracking, long range navigation, and tomography (SOFAR, RAFOS, Tonpilz), Vertical Current Meters (VCMs) to measure water chimney convection, profiling floats (ALACE and APEX) that evolved into the ARGO program, and the genesis of ocean gliders (Slocum). The sound sources are still in use today for a variety of applications. The VCMs morphed into the floats with the added capability of electromagnetic probes (EM-APEX) for water velocity measurements that are now air deployed from C-130 planes. Over the last 20 years of the Argo program, the floats have made over 2 million ocean profiles, or four times as many profiles as all other ocean observing tools combined. The Slocum gliders, capable of crossing ocean basins with well over a year of endurance, are routinely being used to measure and monitor many facets of the ocean including biogeochemical properties, whale and penguin movements, and facilitating hurricane intensity predictions.

“I continue to have the good fortune of working alongside Doug through many shared adventures. Doug’s spark of inquisitiveness and creativity is contagious, and we strive to follow the advice that he gave to Rutgers students after the first Slocum glider Atlantic Ocean crossing – 'Work hard, have fun, and change the world',” said Clayton Jones, Senior Director of Technology, Teledyne Marine

The February 2022 eMag edition of Marine Technology Reporter looks inside the world of oceanography.
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