Researchers at the University of Southampton have received funding to develop sensors capable of working in extreme ocean conditions.

The sensors that will result are designed to be compatible with autonomous underwater systems such as NOC’s autosub Boaty McBoatface and will be able to perform a variety of functions at sea, helping answer questions about our changing oceans.

One of the sensor projects will develop a 3D visual mapping system to obtain detailed colour images and topographical measurements of the sea floor, such as measuring the cover of live cold-water coral within marine protected areas.

Another will develop an active chlorophyll fluorometer sensor capable of measuring how phytoplankton – marine micro-organisms that play a key role in the Earth’s carbon cycle – process carbon for food in situ. It will be able to monitor and understand this process from the smallest scales up to oceanic basin scales.

“Oceanic phytoplankton are responsible for around half the primary production on the planet, but our ability to monitor how this process varies in time and space is still relatively basic.” Said Professor Mark Moore, leader of the project. “Autonomous measurements of primary production will ultimately enable us to observe and understand how this crucial ecosystem process varies naturally in the environment and as a result of human impacts.”

The University has been awarded a total of £4.3m funding by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).


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