Wanna help explore the ocean? You can.

Nature reports on a new initiative to crowdsource oceanography:

Just about the first action involved in any experiment at sea is the casting overboard of a conductivity, temperature and depth instrument, known as a CTD.

From the Arctic to the tropics, every year CTDs sink through the water beneath the keels of research vessels. As they descend, they record the information that gives them their name and build a profile of how temperature and salinity — measured by means of the water’s electrical conductivity — change as they move further from the surface.

“The CTD is the workhorse of the ocean scientist. It’s an essential, a must-have tool,” says Kersey Sturdivant, a marine scientist at Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina. “But CTDs are not cheap.”

Sturdivant is part of the team behind OpenCTD, a project aiming to produce design plans that will allow anyone to build their own instrument for around US$200 from off-the-shelf parts.

OpenCTD is trying to raise $10,000 from the public through a crowdsourcing website. The team will use this money to test and calibrate its prototype later this year, and will then produce an electronic book of the plans and prepare a peer-reviewed paper detailing the project and instrument for publication.