The Magazine for Underwater Professionals
The potential of divers to provide vital information about the temperature of our oceans has been demonstrated for the first time using ‘citizen science’. A study published in Nature’s online journal Scientific Reports has shown that temperature profiles from divers’ computers can be compiled to provide accurate records across the globe that add to our existing monitoring network in inshore areas. This offers additional data that could help us better understand our marine environment.
Dr Serena Wright of the United Kingdom’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and lead author of the study said: “Our results show that, with processing, dive computers can provide a useful and novel tool with which to augment existing monitoring systems all over the globe, but especially in under-sampled or highly changeable coastal environments.”
The work, led by Cefas in collaboration with the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), developed the Dive Into Science website (www.diveintoscience.org) that collected more than 7600 temperature records from scuba divers to build up a record of global sea temperature in the first citizen science project of its kind.
Dr Kieran Hyder, who led the citizen science project, said: “To undertake a global science programme that could generate this information would be hugely expensive, but there are millions of sport and commercial dives every year. Making use of just a small fraction of those dives will greatly increase our knowledge of what is happening worldwide.”
Co-author Dr John Pinnegar, lead advisor on climate change, said: “The coastal environment is an important region of our oceans and is vulnerable to pressures brought about by increasing human populations and climate change. The Dive Into Science initiative can help generate the large datasets often required to support and improve management decisions.”
The temperature recordings were downloaded from decompression computers, but the accuracy of these records was unknown. Comparisons made by ‘diving’ computers alongside scientific instruments and with satellite measurements of water temperature in this study showed that diver computers can provide accurate records.
Co-author Dr Martin Sayer leads the UK Natural Environment Research Council’s National Facility for Scientific Diving (NFSD) based at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) near Oban and has conducted numerous studies on the performance of dive computers. He said: “What we are hoping is that the results from this study will encourage manufacturers and their customers to see the potential benefits of developing new dive computer models that not only support the diver but also produce high quality oceanographic data.”
Dr Hyder acknowledges that there is still some way to go before he achieves his ultimate vision of a global oceanographic resource that is developed and maintained through citizen science. He said: “This has been a very successful proof of concept. The next stage is to work with dive computer manufacturers, potential user groups, diving organisations and the divers themselves to improve the quality of the information and the user experience.”
After a month of completing rigorous tests in the open ocean off the island of Guam in the western Pacific, the new remotely operated vehicle SuBastian has returned to shore. USA-based Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) has been working this summer testing and integrating its new ROV from aboard its 272-foot (83-metre) oceanographic research vessel Falkor.
The 25-day testing placed ROV SuBastian in real-world conditions, demonstrating its functionality as a modern research tool with innovative systems. The ROV tests and trials included 22 dives and more than 100 hours underwater.
Now that the vehicle has been tested, the team is working on making tweaks and improvements so that SuBastian is ready for its first research cruise later this year, visiting the Mariana Back-Arc in Guam.
The 4K high-resolution video footage collected with SuBastian will be openly shared with scientists and interested public around the world.
Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute has watched SuBastian go from concept to a full-functioning vehicle. She said: “I am very proud of what our team has been able to accomplish in the past year. With ROV SuBastian, we will help make life on the ocean floor real to people who will never visit the sea, so they, too, can begin to appreciate the importance of ocean health and make the connection between life in the deep sea and life on land.
“You don’t have to be a scientist at sea to recognise the importance of the marine environment, and we are only at the beginning of our understanding. We never anticipated discovering the world’s deepest living fish, the ghostfish, back in 2014, and are excited about the life we will discover next.”
The ROV is connected to an umbilical tether that powers and transfers data for live video telepresence operations, resulting in SuBastian’s ability to potentially stay submerged and explore for multiple days at a time. This is the first submersible vehicle that SOI, founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, has designed and built. The ROV was built to meet the needs of scientists aboard Falkor, while considering the wellbeing of the entire marine environment, according to SOI.
The ROV is designed to go to depths of 4500 metres (2.8 miles) and will be suitable to support high-resolution seafloor mapping, photomosaicing, video and image gathering and collections of rocks, animals and seawater samples. SuBastain is equipped with a versatile array of power and data interfaces to enable integration of a wide range of add-on deep-sea instruments and samplers that oceanographers may need to support their deep-sea research.
Schmidt Ocean Institute provides collaborating researchers and scientists free access to research vessel Falkor, as well as expert technical support, in exchange for a commitment to openly share and communicate the outcomes of research, including the raw observations and data. With many ROV research cruises foreseen through at least 2018, there certainly will be lots to learn with SuBastian.
“This is just the start of SuBastian’s life,” said ROV project manager David Wotherspoon. “The team is incredibly focused and ready to put SuBastian to use. SuBastian will now be used by scientists to investigate the deep sea, acting as eyes, ears and hands miles beneath the ocean surface.”
The UK’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Southampton is to host a new marine autonomy and technology showcase in November this year.
Kevin Forshaw, NOC’s associate director of innovation and enterprise, said: “The NOC welcomes thousands of visitors each year, many working within the region in thriving marine technology based businesses. We are currently engaged with in excess of £10 million of R&D collaborative projects with industry partners, and this showcase is both a celebration of those partnerships and, we hope, a catalyst for more collaboration within the region.”
The inaugural Marine Autonomy and Technology Showcase will run from 14-18 November and will feature a programme of workshops, talks and demonstrations covering all aspects of marine technology development and regulation.