Robotic surfer sails to uncover the lives of fish
August 17 2012 Lewis Smith
Stanford University/Tom O'Leary/Kip Evans
A robotic surfboard has been deployed at sea to help researchers uncover the secret lives of marine animals.
The Wave Glider robot’s first mission is to gather data on great white sharks but in future projects is expected to be used to monitor commercial fish such as salmon or bluefin tuna.
Ultimately, data collected by the robotic surfboard is expected to show where and when a variety of species travel, and to enable the management of fisheries to be improved.
The device is fitted with receivers which pick up signals from acoustic tags fitted to fish and other marine animals enabling researchers to follow their movements.
Each robotic surfboard can pick up signals from up to 1,000 feet (304m) and will form a network of receivers, including static buoys, that are hoped will provide unprecedented insights into marine animal movements.
Signals received by the robotic surfboards and buoys are, as part of the shark-monitoring project, transmitted to an on-shore research team from Stanford University led by Professor Barbara Block.
Data from acoustic tags fitted to great white sharks is a follow-up programme to the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) project, for which she was co-chief scientist as part of the international Census of Marine Life (2000-2010).
"Our goal is to use revolutionary technology that increases our capacity to observe our oceans and census populations, improve fisheries management models, and monitor animal responses to climate change," she said. "My mission is to protect ocean biodiversity and the open sea.”
The robotic surfboard, made by Liquid Robotics, are seven feet long and are solar-powered. Because they are mobile researchers can send them instructions to move position so as to follow groups of animals rather than just wait for them to swim into range.
The first deployment is in the Pacific Ocean off the Californian coast near San Francisco, between Monterey Bay and Tomales Point.
Eventually, Dr Block hopes to the network of receivers can be extended down the entire west coast of North America, creating a "wired ocean of WiFi hotspots" relaying live feeds of the movements of predators ranging in size from white, mako and salmon sharks to smaller fish including salmon smolts.
"Animals may tell us more about how the world works and is changing then any other source of knowledge,” said Dan Basta, Director of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service.
The public can follow the tracking of animals in real time on the free smartphone and tablet computer app ‘Shark Net’. It is free and was partly funded by a $104,000 Rolex Award for Enterprise given to Dr Block earlier this year.
Dr Randall Kochevar, of Stanford University, said: "People realize this [work] is important, but it's hard for them to connect on a visceral, personal level to the incredible biodiversity in their own backyard. Through this app, we're able to put the Blue Serengeti right in their hands. They can follow individual sharks and learn about their lives and feeding habits."
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1 Responses to "Robotic surfer sails to uncover the lives of fish"
jim whalley Says:
Ummm... couldn't/won't this lead to fisherman being able to find and harvest species of fish more easily, by targeting them in waters where up until now we didn't know they existed?! Especially the illegal and unscruprulous companies out there.
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