What We Do

The Center for Environmental and Information Systems houses three core research areas:

1. Acoustics and Signal Processing (ASP)

ASP conducts research and development in applied ocean acoustics to support antisubmarine warfare and other Navy programs, and, applies signal processing techniques to extract relevant information from underwater sound, speech, and radiation as well as other environmental signals.

2. Environmental Sensing and Modeling (ESM)

ESM investigates new techniques for making operational observations of the coastal ocean, estuaries, and other important regions. The group researches numerical modeling, data management and communication, environmental data visualization, and chemical sensing.

The Applied Optical Sensing Laboratory is researching the optical sampling characteristics of various spectroscopic techniques such as Raman, FT-IR, and UV-Vis, to improve real-time analyses and modeling for understanding and control of industrial processes like pharmaceutical manufacturing and biofuel processing.

Evanescent sensor — optical sensor development


3. Information and Control Systems (ICS)

ICS researches the use of information in complex decision-making environments like social networks, human robot interaction, computer interfaces, and cyber security, developing information and control systems for decision support systems, environmental visualization tools, autonomous underwater vehicles, and a testbed for studying botnets.

ICS is studying group decision-making in a joint Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and Office of Naval Research (ONR) program. They are modeling the interaction of group structural and process variables on group decision-making outcomes, variables such as specific networks, their level of disagreement, the order of their communications, and internal and external pressures. The predicted behaviors from the model will be validated experimentally.

To do so ICS is examining the theoretical integration of small group and attitude change theory, nonlinear dynamical systems, and wireless sensor network analysis methods. From these investigations ICS will design and conduct online group discussion experiments on small groups (3-5 people) through the manipulation of structural and process variables.


The EIS Center’s know-how is applied to the needs of the Department of Defense, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, along with other agencies and industry partners.

Examples of our research efforts include the investigation of underwater acoustic communications to improve sensor networking, the study of the causes of hypoxia in Hood Canal, and the use of cognitive engineering approaches to study the needs of Puget Sound boaters that resulted in an interactive web application called BIS.

Future directions for our group include chemical sensor engineering, ecosystem modeling of estuaries and coastal regions, and new areas of information science such as the study of social networks. One example of our research and development in chemical sensing is the use of revolutionary optical technologies to measure dissolved gases and to probe the geochemistry of remote and harsh environments.

David Jones, EIS Center Director

“We develop new methods for environmental observation and new tools for data analysis and signal processing, plus design, develop, and improve systems for enhanced performance, precision, and ease of use.”

EIS Center Expertise

  • Oceanography & meteorology
  • Applied ocean acoustics
  • Human systems interfaces
  • Signal, image & information processing
  • Naval operational studies
  • Software & environmental engineering
  • Statistical analysis
  • Embedded real-time control systems

EIS Center Applications

  • Autonomous undersea vehicle piloting and control
  • Ocean observing systems
  • Naval ocean & acoustic forecasting
  • ASW sonar & sonobuoy systems
  • Torpedo defense
  • Mine countermeasure systems

What's New?

Washington Ocean Acidification Center

In 2013 the Washington State legislature appropriated $1.8M to establish the Washington Ocean Acidification Center, co-directed by Jan Newton. The mission is to improve forecasts of where and when corrosive water may occur and to create mitigation strategies.   More >>

Local Educators on Shelf Science Cruise

On Earth Day the UW-operated R/V Thompson began an expedition for research and education off the Washington coast. Local teachers aboard learned about current ocean research topics and how to bring real time ocean data to their classrooms.  More >>

Ice Diver: A Thermal Ice Penetrator

The APL-UW-developed instrument melts its way through ice by electrical heating, like a rocket going down instead of up. The goal is to have it penetrate the kilometer-thick Greenland Ice Sheet to allow scientists to put sensors at the base of the sheet and measure meltwater pressures.  More >>

In the News

5 UW startups to watch this year

Puget Sound Business Journal,

29 Jul 2014

The C4C business incubator, the New Ventures facility, was recently was named "emerging incubator of the year" in the 2014 University Business Incubators Global Index. BluHaptics and MarqMetrix, seeded from research sponsored at APL-UW, are among the exciting startups to emerge.

Hacker tactic: Holding data hostage

New York Times,

21 Jun 2014

Cybercriminals are getting better at circumventing firewalls and antivirus programs. More of them are resorting to ransomware, which encrypts computer data and holds it hostage until a fee is paid. But Dave Dittrich cautions that some tactics to combat the practice may present legal perils of their own.

Acidification Eating Away at Tiny Northwest Sea Creatures

The Seattle Times,

30 Apr 2014

Scientists have documented that souring seas caused by CO2 emissions are dissolving pteropods, a key marine food source. The research raises questions about what other sea life might be affected.

Recent Papers

Volný, M., J. Rolfs, B. Hakimi, P. Fryčák, T. Schneider, D. Liu, G. Yen, D.T. Chiu, and F. Tureček, "Nanoliter segmented-flow sampling mass spectrometry with online compartmentalization," Anal. Chem., 86, 3647-3652, doi:10.1021/ac500365r, 2014.

13 Mar 2014, Link

Reum, J.C.P., S.R. Alin, R.A. Feely, J. Newton, M. Warner, and P. McElhany, "Seasonal carbonate chemistry covariation with temperature, oxygen, and salinity in a fjord estuary: Implications for the design of ocean acidification experiments," Plos One, 9, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089619, 2014.

19 Feb 2014, Link

Valentini, R., et al., including E. Mayorga, "A full greenhouse gases budget of Africa: Synthesis, uncertainties, and vulnerabilities," Biogeosciences, 11, 381-407, doi:10.5194/bg-11-381-2014, 2014.

28 Jan 2014, Link

Educational Opportunities

Graduate and undergraduate students who wish to study at the Applied Physics Laboratory may work with EIS advisors who have joint appointments in UW academic departments.  More >>

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