Written by Brian Stampe, MS candidate
Over the summer I worked at a ocean survey company. They are a hydro-graphic consulting company, that collects sonar and seismic data and processes it so that off coast decisions can be made. Anything from wind-farms, to oil pipelines to telecommunications projects require an idea of what the sea floor looks like. And the best way we have to analyze sediment, geology, and topography below water is to board a ship and send sound waves through the water column, recording when they return (sonar) and process this to form maps. They also conduct ‘desktop studies’ which synthesize disparate sources of relevant information on the local climatology, fishing practices, and habitat to make sure construction in the area is reasonable.
There are many net environmental positives to oil pipelines and wind farms being put in. Namely, reduced chance of a ship spilling oil and temporarily disrupting local habitats and fishing businesses, as well as providing cheaper oil-gas and for wind farms, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. However, there can also be negatives. Such as disrupting sensitive ecosystems on the sea floor and disturbing local fishing areas. These trade-offs are weighed as a part of the desktop studies. Thereby, the services survey companies provide help to reduce the tug and pull of the typically antithetical environmental and industrial interests, ideally, providing better results for both parties.