Underwater robot offers new glimpse of ‘twilight zone’ in the middle of the ocean – ScienceDaily
An innovative underwater robot known as the Mesobot provides researchers with a deeper insight into the vast mid-ocean region known as the “twilight zone”. Capable of tracking and recording high-resolution images of slow and fragile zooplankton, gelatinous animals and particles, Mesobot dramatically increases the ability of scientists to observe creatures in their mesopelagic habitat with minimal disturbance. This engineering breakthrough will provide insight into the role these creatures play in transporting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the deep sea, as well as how the commercial exploitation of the Twilight Zone fisheries could affect the ecosystem. marine.
In an article published on June 16 in Scientific roboticsWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Principal Scientist Dana Yoerger presents Mesobot as a versatile vehicle for achieving a number of science goals in the Twilight Zone.
“Mesobot was designed to complement and fill important gaps not filled by existing technologies and platforms,” said Yoerger. “We expect Mesobot to become an essential tool for observing pelagic organisms for long periods of time, as well as for the rapid identification of observed species from ship biosonars. Since Mesobot can study, track and record compelling images, we hope to reveal previously unknown behaviors, species interactions, morphological structures, and use of bioluminescence. “
Co-authored by researchers and engineers at OMSI, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and Stanford University, the article describes the robot’s success in autonomously tracking two gelatinous sea creatures during ‘a 2019 research cruise in Monterey Bay. High-definition video revealed a “dinner plate” jellyfish “ramming” a siphonophore, which narrowly escaped the poisonous tentacles of the jelly. Mesobot also recorded a 30-minute video of a giant larva, which appears to be almost still but actually rides internal waves that rise and fall 6 meters (20 feet). The sightings represent the first time that a self-guided robot has followed these small, clear creatures as they move through the water column like a “patch of water,” Yoerger said.
“Mesobot has the potential to change the way we observe animals move in space and time in ways that we have never been able to do before,” said Kakani Katija, senior engineer at MBARI. “As we continue to develop and improve the vehicle, we hope to observe many other mysterious and captivating animals in the intermediate ocean waters, including the construction and disposal of ‘snot palaces’ of rich giant larvae. carbon. “
Packaged in a hydrodynamically efficient yellow case, the hybrid robot is equipped with a suite of oceanographic and acoustic survey sensors. It can be remotely piloted via a fiber optic cable attached to a ship or released from its tether to follow preprogrammed missions or autonomously track a target at depths of up to 1,000 meters (3,300 feet). This autonomous ability will one day allow Mesobot to track a target animal for more than 24 hours without human intervention, which is enough to observe its migration from the twilight zone to the surface and vice versa. Future studies with Mesobot could provide researchers with valuable information on the behavior of animals during daily vertical migration, known as “the greatest migration on Earth” due to the large number and diversity of creatures that live there. ‘undertake every night.
“By leveraging the data we have collected using Mesobot and other data that we have kept for over 30 years at MBARI, we hope to bring smarter algorithms into the vehicle that uses artificial intelligence to discover, Continuously track and observe enigmatic animals and other objects in the deep sea, ”Kakani said.
The design, construction and initial testing of the Mesobot were funded by the US NSF Program for Ocean Technology and Interdisciplinary Coordination (OTIC). The research in this article was supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and OMSI’s Ocean Twilight Zone (OTZ) project, funded under the Audacious Project hosted at TED.
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