Undergraduate and Graduate students in the Ecosystem Electronics Lab have access to a wide variety of tools, lab and field equipment, field research sites, and other resources for their projects. A few of these resources are listed below. For safety reasons, access to some of these resources requires appropriate training and certification by the lab director prior to use.
The Ecosystem Electronics Lab is located within a few miles of several ecosystems that offer great study sites for student research projects. Local marine sites include the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Terrestrial sites include the mountains and coast of Big Sur, Pinnacles National Park, Fort Ord National Monument, and the fertile Salinas Valley. We also work at remote field sites, including Micronesia.
The EEL has recently moved to a larger, 800 square foot lab space subdivided into areas for different tasks, including machining of parts, circuit construction/testing, in-water testing of ocean instrumentation, and large table areas for project assembly and staging.
Rigid inflatables (like the one pictured) from CSUMB's Small Boats program provide properly trained students with safe access to local marine ecosystems. For smaller projects closer to shore, we also have sit-on-top sea kayaks. Time on larger boats, such as those operated by CSUMB's Seafloor Mapping Lab, can sometimes be arranged.
CSUMB has a very active SCUBA training program, which includes advanced training and AAUS certification in scientific (research) diving. Students with this certification can conduct dives to install or retrieve research equipment and/or to collect scientific data for EEL projects.
The BlueROV2 is a remotely operated robotic vehicle capable of diving to depths in excess of 100 meters. With powerful thrusters and sophisticated autopilot features, this Blue Robotics technology has been the EEL's "workhorse" ROV for marine life observations, site surveys, and deployment/retrieval of seafloor instrumentation since 2016.
The EEL has several machine and power tools, including a metalworking lathe, a CNC mill, benchtop grinder, band saw, router, and radial arm saw. After safety training and certification, authorized students may use these tools with supervision for EEL projects.
The Division of Science and Environmental Policy owns and operates a MakerBot Replicator II 3-D printer, which can be used by EEL students to make custom-shaped plastic parts for their projects.
The EEL is stocked with a wide assortment of standard hand and power tools for student use. These include a drill press, cordless drill/drivers, table saw, chop saw, band saw, disk sander, dental drill, and plunge router. Hand tools include the usual assortment of screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, hammers, and so forth.
Standard tools for circuit assembly and testing, including oscilloscopes, multimeters, soldering stations, and a variety of electronic components and connectors, are all available for student use in EEL projects.
The EEL has a number of “trail cameras,” IP network cameras, Camcorders, and GoPro cameras (some with underwater camera housings) that can be deployed to observe and study animals and their habitats.
Student in the lab have access to a variety of computers, routers, cables, and antennas for setting up temporary or more-permanent wireless networks. When combined with our portable solar power stations, this equipment allows the creation of wireless networks for data collection and transmission in the field, even in remote regions.
Thanks to generous funding from the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation and the Wireless Education and Technology Center, the EEL has four portable, solar-power stations that can be used to provide power for wildlife cameras, wireless networks, and other system in the field when power is not otherwise available.
No geeky electronics lab is complete without a small herd of robots running about. They’re fun platforms for test-driving sensor systems, communication protocols, and other electronics. We have some commercial ones (like the Parallax BOE Bots) as well as some lab-built ones. Some of them work for us in the field collecting data.
Microcontrollers are tiny computers we use as the brains for our gadgets. EEL Students have access to programming kits for several popular microcontrollers including the Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Beagle Bone, BASIC Stamp, Propeller, and others.
Motors make things go, and making things go is both fun and useful. The EEL has an assortment of motors and motor controllers available for project use. These include both brushed and brushless DC motors, servo motors, stepper motors, and gearmotors.
We use a Humminbird 386ci DI combination Fish Finder / GPS unit for navigating to our research sites. We also have Eagle Cuda242 fish finder unit, an OEM depth sounder, and a hydrophone available for use in student projects.
Over the years, the EEL has designed and built a number of underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). Some have gone to clients who paid us to design and build them. Others have stuck around home and are available for use in student projects. Existing ROVs include the “Ulithi” (capable of diving to 150 meters in seawater), two “Catalinas” (capable of diving to 15 meters in seawater), and the “ROVing Otter”, and an older-style ROV that can be configured for remote control over the internet. All of these ROVs are small enough to be launched, operated, and retrieved safely by hand from a sea kayak or small Zodiac-style inflatable boat.
The CSUMB Otter Aquatics Center features a 25 meter x 25 yard pool that is 13 feet deep in the deep end. The Aquatic Center staff are great and have been very helpful in scheduling pool time for EEL students who need to perform test flights of their ROV's or other underwater equipment prior to open ocean tests.