Spotlight - Jim Osse

Research Engineer: Engineering Development Division

Jim in AntarcticaAfter a 3-year hiatus in Italy, Jim Osse returned to the Seattle area and joined the Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean at the beginning of the year. As a research engineer with the Engineering Development Division of Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Jim is working on designing instrumentation for the Regional Scale Nodes. He is finishing up the bottom pressure recording tilt-meter started by Bob Gliege and will be working on refining the Prawler (a profiling crawler) with Hugh Milburn and the in situ incubator with Dr. David Butterfield.

Jim has a long history of ocean engineering at the University of Washington, first at the Applied Physics Lab (APL) for 20 years and then seven years at the School of Oceanography. In his early years, he developed autonomous drifting platforms for Dr. Eric D’Asaro and electric field instruments for Dr. Tom Sanford. In addition to his engineering work, Jim provided field support services for nine Arctic ice camps, including three trips to the North Pole in support of the North Pole Environmental Observatory for APL’s Polar Science Center. SCUBA diving for mooring recovery at the North Pole was a highlight, along with the remoteness of the 4-man camps. As a result of his work Jim was highlighted in New York Times writer Andy Revkin’s book “The North Pole was Here.”

While at APL Jim began work on the initial design for the Seaglider in conjunction with Dr. Charlie Eriksen. Seaglider was one of the three gliders developed as part of the Autonomous Ocean-Sampling Network for the Office of Naval Research. A radical shift in ocean observation, gliders use buoyancy engines to propel themselves and steer using shifts in their center of gravity. At the surface, the glider telemetries its data to a satellite network and retrieves new instructions. Because of its low energy requirements, the Seaglider can stay at sea for long periods. SG144 owns the endurance records for autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) at 292 days and 5500 km range. In 2002, Jim moved to the School of Oceanography to work with Dr. Eriksen on the design of the Deepglider, which uses a carbon fiber composite hull to achieve the depth requirements of 6000 meters while remaining light enough, at 60 kg, to be easily deployed. Jim wants to point out that Seagliders are available for purchase from the University’s Seaglider Fabrication Center.

For something completely different, Jim left UW in 2009 to work for the NATO Undersea Research Center (NURC) in La Spezia, Italy. NURC has a rotating staff of 40 scientists from NATO countries addressing the present and future navy and security needs of NATO. He worked on a variety of projects including a marine mammal passive acoustic detection system as part of their risk mitigation program, and an autonomous system to recover AUVs. ‘Robots catching robots’ as he likes to say. He also designed a special purpose AUV for use in seismic oil field surveys that uses a buoyancy engine and vertical tunnel thrusters to improve bottom coupling for the sensor, resist seafloor currents during a 20-day loiter, and then assist lifting the AUV off the ocean seabed. In addition he drank a lot of Italian wine, climbed and skied and cycled and became fascinated by architecture, art, and Italian history, especially of the Renaissance which started in Florence, just 150 km away.

Bella and Boomer in VeniceJim is an engineer and builder by nature. He rebuilt his first car, a British TR3, before he was old enough to get a license. More recently, he built a camper on the chassis of a 1980 Mercedes Unimog, which he and his wife lived and traveled in for two years, going as far north as Prudhoe Bay and as far south as Honduras. Jim and his wife Lisa have climbed Denali twice, including a full traverse of the mountain taking 26 days, after volunteering for the National Park Service as climbing rangers there. He and his wife kayaked from their home in Kirkland to Juneau, Alaska, taking 103 days to cover the 2,000 km. They were the first Americans to receive a permit from the EPA and NSF to sea kayak parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, an expedition that did not go according to plan. When in Italy, he and his wife pursued motorcycle touring, including off road riding, culminating in a trip to high desert mountains of Morocco. They were happy to escape Italy with no motorcycle accidents after almost four years there. When Jim isn’t at work or in his woodshop, he loves to be outdoors, climbing, cycling, skiing, sea kayaking, SCUBA diving, or just trying to wear out his two springer spaniels, Bella and Boomer.