Nova Southeastern University Office of Academic Affairs Search NSU Site Map Nova Southeastern University
President's Faculty R & D Grant 
Committees, Councils
  and Boards
Faculty Policy Manual
NSU Scholarly Journals
Professional Journals
Prof. Memberships
Academic Policies & Procedures
Provost's Research and Scholarship Award
President's Faculty
 R & D Grant
PFRDG Application Review Process by NSU Librarians
Office of Academic Quality, Assessment, and Accreditation
Contact Us

Print this page  


With a focus on learning, we employ a range of strategies to support innovation, collaboration across centers, and university-wide discussion and decision-making


Tenth Annual Grant Winners 2009-2010

Richard Dodge, Ph.D.

Mikhail Gilman, Ph.D
Amy Hirons, Ph.D.

Title: Production of surfactants by plankton agitation in the wakes of surface ships


Grant Winners 2009-2010

Surface-active materials, or surfactants, play an important role in oceanic processes. Under appropriate weather conditions, the concentration as little as 1 mg/m2 of surfactant is enough to produce a slick – an area covered by monomolecular film with greatly reduced surface roughness. This effect is responsible for the visibility of ship wakes (as well as eddies, internal waves, fronts, and other oceanic features) in satellite-based optical and radar images.

Surfactants are naturally present in seawater mainly due to marine life activity. There are evidences that sea storm events stimulate plankton to produce more surfactant. Our hypothesis is that the passage of surface vessels and the associated effects such as wave-breaking, noise, cavitation, and turbulence may have the same stimulating effect on surfactant release by marine plankton as a storm event. The additional amount of surfactants released in a ship wake can make it visible for long time – an effect extremely important for ship traffic monitoring, maritime security, and pollution control.

Our goal is to test the above hypothesis. We plan to study the effect of turbulence, cavitation, and noise on the production of surfactants by the marine plankton in laboratory conditions. Some field measurements in real ship wakes may be required to support and validate the laboratory observations; however, laboratory settings allow us to study the role of each individual factor. The presence of surfactants will be detected in two ways: by change of damping properties of induced capillary waves and by change of the plankton biomass composition. In this way we avoid direct measurements of tiny amounts of surfactants that has always been a challenge to experiments in this area.

If successful, this experiment will contribute to theory of far wakes of ships and will suggest an explanation of the high variability in the observed ship wake’s features.