SOCCO has setup five world class research facilities (ocean robotics, bio-optics and biogeochemistry, CO2, trace metal iron biogeochemistry and high resolution modelling) to address our multidisciplinary science objectives. These facilities now form part of the core of SOCCO as well as the South African ocean – climate science landscape stimulating funded international collaborations. Having access to world class technological facilities is fundamental to being able to produce first rate science and capabilities necessary to meet national goals. Another opportunity that comes from having access to technologically advanced infrastructure is the innovation potential that can be leveraged through the development of new technology, prototypes and technology demonstrators that can advance industrialisation by transforming the use or application of conventional products or services. These highly technical platforms continue to provide training in both scientific and technological research innovation to ensure growth in R&D.

New interdisciplinary research facilities in support of SANAP and the Global Climate Grand Challenge

Fig. 1. Interdisciplinary research facilities in support of SOCCO’s Integrated Science and Innovation Strategy


Integrated earth systems scale climate research in the Southern Hemisphere

Fig.2. SOCCO’s integrated earth systems scale climate research approach. Set up to interface with the polar research ship and the Centre for High-Performance Computing to grow a 21st century Ocean – atmosphere research capability in South Africa.

Autonomous ocean robots are the future of marine research and environmental monitoring. This is because of the high costs and man-power associated with ‘snapshot’ observations made by ships and because today we require high quality, high-frequency sampling to support on-going world class oceanographic and climate research. The CSIR-led South Africa Marine Engineering & Robotics Centre (SAMERC) in Cape Town presents a state-of-the-art facility that (1) provides a glider-port for maintaining and piloting both profiling and surface gliders, (2) services and calibrates ship-based equipment and sensors for ocean profiling (e.g., CTD, UCTD, XBT), and (3) serves as a platform to grow technological R&D and marine engineering innovation in South Africa. This facility functions in collaboration with Sea Technology Services (STS) and is hosted by DEA-SANAP

This DST-supported world class facility is under the leadership of Dr Seb Swart and Dr Pedro Monteiro of the CSIR. The Centre currently houses long-endurance, deep- profiling (1000m) ocean gliders that consist of 4 Seagliders and 1 Webb-Teledyne Slocum Glider. These gliders are capable of sampling a range of physical and biogeochemical parameters including temperature, salinity, pressure, dissolved oxygen, bio-optics (incl. chl-a) and PAR. In addition there are long-endurance surface wave gliders that consist of 2 SV2 Liquid Robotics Wave Gliders with pCO2 systems and weather stations, and 2 new generation SV3 Liquid Robotics Wave Gliders. The wave gliders are suited to measure atmospheric CO2 fluxes, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, salinity and surface weather (wind, RH, air temperature, etc.). The Slocum glider and SV3 Wave Gliders perform as R&D platforms for sensor integration, power utilization testing and experimental design.

The Centre also maintains specially adapted biogeochemical profiling floats, ship-mounted heat flux sensors and the profiling equipment deployed from ships. The profiling equipment includes a full standard and Geotraces CTD carousel with 24 x 20 litre Niskin Bottles and auxiliary sensors for measuring key physical, biogeochemical and bio-optical properties of the water column. An underway-CTD (UCTD) for acquiring temperature and salinity profiles of the ocean to 500m depth, while the ship is steaming, is also part of the Centre’s gadgets.

These new capabilities have begun to attract a number of engineering students that complete their in-service training and BTech projects at the Centre. This advances human resource development in scarce skills in the fields of marine technology, robotics engineering and scientific sensor development that contributes to innovation in South Africa.

Follow our gliders on twitter

Related News and Publications

For the iron biogeochemistry project, seawater samples are collected during voyages on board the RV SA Agulhas II. A GEOTRACES compliant trace metal clean CTD housed on an epoxy coated aluminium frame rosette with titanium bolts, equipped with 24 x 12L GO-FLO bottles, controlled by a Kevlar cable winch is used to conduct profile sampling of the water column. Subsampling is conducted inside a certified class 100 trace metal clean container lab equipped with circulating HEPA filters for trace metal clean air supply. Concentrations of dissolved Fe (DFe, filtered through 0.22 µm) and soluble Fe (SFe, filtered through 0.02µm) are measured using a Flow Injection Analyser (FIA) with chemiluminescence detection inside a trace metal clean class 100 laboratory. Samples for particulate Fe (PFe, filtered onto 0.45 µm) are acid reflux digested and analysed at LEMAR, France following GEOTRACES protocols and measured by sector field ICP-MS.


Related News and Publications

The following equipment is available:

  1. Lachat QuikChem 8500 series 2 – 3 channels : currently set-up for the automated determination of NO3 and SiO4
  2. Turner fluorometer for chlorophyll analysis
  3. Metrohm 848 Titrino+ for oxygen analysis
  4. Digital burette
  5. Crison pH meter
  6. Spectrophotometers (UV/vis)
  7. Access to mass spectrometer for 15N and 13C analyses
  8. Deck and fridge incubators for nutrient incubation experiments
  9. Radioisotope certified laboratory container
  10. Custom built photosynthetron for 14C production versus irradiance experiments
  • Dissolved oxygen titrino
  • Flow injection autoanalyser fluorometer
  • Incubators
Related News and Publications

The establishment of a national bio-optical research competency that will allow multi-ecosystem observations. SOCCO have recently set up a CapEx funded world-class bio-optical research facility under the leadership of Dr Sandy Thomalla. To date SOCCO have put in place new IOP sensors on the CTD’s, a multi-spectral profiling radiometre (C-OPS) and a Beckman Multisizer 4 for characterising the size distribution of the phytoplankton community. In Addition, SOCCO have developed an underway IOP system that can be set up to run in both underway mode (using the ships underway water supply) and bench top mode (using discreet water samples from CTD’s, bio-assay incubation experiments and cultures. The observational objectives of the underway IOP system are as follows: 1) Calibration‐independent hyperspectral measurements of particulate absorption ap(λ) and attenuation cp(λ) via periodic measurements of total (unfiltered) and 0.2 m filtered absorption at(λ) – aCDOM(λ), and attenuation ct(λ) – cCDOM(λ) 1,2 [WET Labs AC-S], 2) Supporting hyperspectral measurements of filtered absorption aCDOM(λ) using long pathlength (integrating cavity) absorption meter [TriOS OSCAR], 3) Multi-λ measurements of particulate backscattering bbp(λ) [WET Labs BB-9], 4) In‐line acidification of seawater for bbbp(λ), supporting PIC estimates, 5) simultaneous feeds of de-bubbled flow-through seawater to other flow-through instruments [e.g., Fast repetition rate fluorometry, Multi-λ excitation fluorometry]. The new bio-optics facility also includes autonomous platforms such as Gliders (with fluorescence and backscattering at two wavelengths) and specialised bio-optics floats with florescence, backscattering and beam attenuation sensors with the additional capability of measuring carbon export.

Related News and Publications

A South African commitment to having a much greater role in both regional and global science has been articulated by the Global Change Grand Challenge science plan prepared by the science community at the request of DST. Key to gaining new knowledge depends on enhancing our observational technological skills, including numerical modelling. The commitment by DST, Treasury and DEA: SANAP to invest in advanced cluster computing facilities (CHPC and SANReN) and a new research vessel (SA Agulhas II) were catalytic in giving significant encouragement to the SA science community to invest research energy in the Southern Ocean domain. These together with the Global Change Grand Challenge were the context that let CSIR-NRE to place the Southern Ocean into its strategic research plans.

A number of new research facilities are already operational and each has been located and developed at institutions that are identifiably strong in the field so that this investment is strongly leveraged by a sustained research interest and HCD plans.

  1. SO Observational Engineering R&D facility: Robotics and Ocean profiling (CSIR-STS-Universities)
  2. Iron (Fe) clean analytical experimental facility (Stellenbosch University)
  3. High precision CO2 and pCO2 Facility (CSIR)
  4. Bio-optics Research Facility (CSIR)
  5. High precision Nutrient and Oxygen biogeochemistry (UCT)
  6. Ocean productivity and biogeochemistry facility (UCT)

All these facilities are set up to interface with the new polar research ship and the Centre for High Performance computing to grow a 21st century Ocean research capability in South Africa.

Related News and Publications

National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS) Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) supports the high performance computing needs of the research community as well as industry for South African and African users with supercomputing hardware and software infrastructure and technical expertise to run domain-specific applications. Through the Lengau (Setswana name for Cheetah) CPU cluster, the CHPC supports the running of SOCCO’s high resolution models and analysis. At its launch in 2016, Lengau was ranked amongst the top 500 supercomputers in the world, it currently consists of over 30 000 CPU cores and 3 Pb of data storage. Additionally, the CHPC’s GPU cluster supports SOCCO’s machine learning applications to close the gap between observations and models.
  • NICIS logo
  • CHPC boardroom
Related News and Publications