Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An Ocean Instrument Is Born Meet SID: the Submersible Incubation Device

An Ocean Instrument Is Born Meet SID: the Submersible Incubation Device

 Winner, Cherie. "An Ocean Instrument Is Born." : Oceanus Magazine. N.p., 5 Sept. 2013. Web. 06 Nov. 2013. <>.


Over thirty years ago, microbiologist Craig Taylor and engineer Ken Doherty started to create a way in which oceanographers could finally see exactly what was happening to the many microbes located in the deep sea. Taylor himself was most interested in finding out how fast single celled photosynthetic organisms converted Carbon Dioxide into organic carbon in the deep sea. At the time, the only way for scientists to see the phytoplankton was to spend many tough hours at very odd times of the day, bringing the phytoplankton up from the sea floor then incubating them in conditions that would allow them to continue with their regular photosynthesis. The problem with this was that the change in pressure, light,  and temperature when rising to sea level would most likely cause the phytoplankton to change it photosynthesis patterns which would lead to incorrect observations and conclusions.

The answer to this problem was a mechanism that could run, “In Situ,” or, “where the microbes exist,” incubation. Taylor and Doherty were faced with a challenge because this technology did not currently exist. The two set out to create the first ever submersible incubation device or SID for short. The problem with trying to build SID was how to stop the incubation process after the phytoplankton were collected. A normal incubator will run the microbes through a filter then apply a chemical to kill them and freeze their chemical reactions. Under water this wasn’t possible so SID instead uses a liquid preservative that when circulated doesn’t have any effect on the microbes, but then the circulation stops, the less dense preservative moves upwards through two small holes in the main tube of the incubator into a filter chamber with the microbes while the more dense salt water pushes downward and back into the main container without the preservatives or the microbes. Fifteen minutes after the circulation has stopped the microbes are all incased in preservatives on the filter without any moving parts having to be activated. The first SID was tested off the shores of Bermuda and was able to filter phytoplankton for a whole year.

News on SID spread and soon researchers worldwide were trying to improve the designs already made by Taylor and Ken. Taylor however had already invented deep SID which was about to dive and incubate at over 650 feet below sea level. After such success, Taylor and Ken were able to receive funding from the National Science Foundation to create an even more powerful model. With the new money the two developed a new filtration system that stored the preservatives away from the filters until they were needed for preservation. The MS-SID was first tested in 2011 with the new filtration system. The system worked well at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea until a tube cracked and preservatives were lost. Improvements were quickly made and now the MS-SID works without problems up to two miles below sea level. Still, the two took the SID a step further and inverted the vent SID which can still work in temperatures up to 160°f. The SID continues to move forward allowing us to gain more and more information on the microbes that live in the depths of the sea.


This piece of machinery is very important to the scientific world because without it we wouldn’t be able to study microbes that dwell even a couple hundred feet below the sea level. Microbes are important because they’re the start of the food chain, the fist producer in the sea for bacteria. Without the microbes the chain would begin to die out and sea life as we know it could drastically change. Therefore, it is very important for us to know all that we can about these microbes so that we can protect them and make sure to not disrupt the balance found in the life cycle of all living things below the sea. I chose this article because I originally didn’t know much about this topic and I want to learn more about it.


This article was very well written and there are very few faults in it if any. One thing that I would like to know is what the SID is made out of so that it doesn’t combust or implode under the pressure two miles below sea level. Besides that, I felt like this article was wonderfully written and full of great detail. The author did a splendid job in describing all aspects of the mechanism, from its origin to its present.

1 comment:

  1. James, I thought that you did a great job with this article. The way you split up your summary into three paragraphs made it a lot easier to follow along and process, without getting bored. I also thought that your relevance paragraph was very nicely written, and helped me make the connection between the topic and today's society that I would not have formed on my own. Thirdly, I thought that your critique was very well stated, and had many good ideas that I wish the author of the article you did your report on could see.
    One of the things that I learned from reading your report is that photosynthesis occurs underwater as well as on land. This was interesting because I would have thought that phytoplankton along the seafloor would have a hard time performing photosynthesis, given the small amount of light that penetrates that deep in the ocean. Another thing I learned was that scientists have created mini-submarine labs that are able to function at depths of two miles.
    I did think that your report could have had a bit more of a personal side attached to it, instead of an almost mechanical seeming one.