Retreating ice, caused by climate change, has exposed the rocky shoreline of Cape Rasmussen on the Antarctic Peninsula.
Retreating ice, caused by climate change, has exposed the rocky shoreline of Cape Rasmussen on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Deploying marine robots to boost climate change research

Scientists believe that the ice shelves under the sea ice hold the keys to further our understanding of climate change. Unfortunately, diving to such areas to explore them is impossible.

How, then, can we access these areas?

Scientist Xi Yu from West Virginia University may have found the answer. She suggests deploying a fleet of marine robots, controlled by a smart mothership, to reach these inaccessible depths and transmit back invaluable insights.

Professor achieves an underwater first – ‘camping’

Underwater habitat
Diver Brandon Carr interfaces with an underwater robot outside of Ocean Space Habitat. Photo courtesy Jona Silvertein.

A May 2023 diving science and technology exercise successfully demonstrated the concept of an ‘underwater camping trip’.

The project took place within the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 facility, which is best known for its enclosed environments for earth science research, as well as studying human performance within such environments. The Biosphere 2 recently celebrated the recent accomplishment of enabling terrestrial Mars simulations at the Biosphere.

A tagged fin whale
A tagged fin whale

New satellite tag tracks long-term whale behaviour

Keeping an eye on whale behaviour is not easy, considering the fact that they travel vast distances and spend the majority of their time beneath the ocean surface.

To counter this, researchers at Oregon State University {OSU) have developed a new satellite tag that can track the whales' movements, even during dives.

Known as RDW, this new technology incorporates pressure and accelerometer sensors, thus giving the researchers the opportunity to monitor the whales’ movements underwater for several months.

Scapa Flow Wrecks: Multibeam Sonar Survey & 3D Photogrammetry

Photogrammetry of the mast of the Kronprinz Wilhelm wreck in Scapa Flow by 3DVisLab at the University of Dundee
The mast of the Kronprinz Wilhelm wreck, rendered in 3D photogrammetry by professors Chris Rowland and Kari Hyttinen of 3DVisLab at the University of Dundee in Scotland, United Kingdom

Scapa Flow, located in the Orkney Islands of Scotland, is the site of the scuttling of the High Seas Fleet of the Imperial German Navy in June 1919 at the end of World War I. While many of the wrecks were salvaged following the war, the remaining wrecks have become popular dive sites. In recent times, efforts to learn more about these wrecks through multibeam sonar surveys and 3D photogrammetry have taken place. Rosemary E.

Scientists are 3D printing calcium carbonate surfaces that corals can grow on.
Scientists are 3D printing calcium carbonate surfaces that corals can grow on.

Using 3D printing to restore coral reefs

A team of scientists at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology are applying innovative approaches to 3D printing solutions in a bid to restore depleted coral reefs.

Instead of using synthetic or hybrid materials, they have developed a new approach called 3D CoraPrint, which uses an eco-friendly and sustainable calcium carbonate photo-initiated (CCP) ink that they also developed.

Cephalopods’ colour-changing skin inspires shape-changing gel

Inspired by this, the engineers at Rutgers University–New Brunswick have developed a 3D-printed smart gel that changes shape when exposed to light, as well as a 3D-printed stretchy material that can reveal colours when the light changes.

A paper on the research has been published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Swimming with dolphins
Swimming with and learning from dolphins

Learning the swimming secrets of dolphins and whales

This scenario may one day become reality. And to be efficient, such robots would need to be maneuverable and stealthy, and be able to closely mimic the movements of the marine creatures.

Scientists like Keith W. Moored are working on the next generation of underwater robots by studying the movements of dolphins and whales. "We're studying how these animals are designed and what's beneficial about that design in terms of their swimming performance, or the fluid mechanics of how they swim."