Science 3 min read

Undersea Robot To Rescue The Great Barrier Reef

A newly developed undersea robot could help researchers reverse the drastic coral collapse that has occurred on the Great Barrier Reef in recent years.

Image via University of Queensland

Image via University of Queensland

A pair of Australian scientists have built an undersea robot to save the Great Barrier Reef.

Corals have a special relationship with zooxanthellae – a type of algae. In exchange for a place to live, these algae not only provide the corals with food, but they also give the coral their bright color.

In the past number of years, pollution and climate change have drastically raised the temperature in their shared habitat.

As you can imagine, the environmental conditions became too harsh for the algae. In response to the stressful environment, the zooxanthellae released some toxic chemicals. This forces the corals to kick the algae out.

Thus, the once beneficial relationship leads to the potential extinction of corals.

It begins with the coral losing its food, and its bright color, but ultimately ends in the coral’s death. An estimate reveals that between 2014 and 2016, 29 percent of the shallow-water corals in the Great Barrier Reefs died from the rising water temperatures.

Since there are limited larvae producing corals, forming new corals has been an enormous challenge. Now, with the help of a new robot, we may be able to reverse some of these changes.

Using an Undersea Robot To Distribute Larvae

A pair of scientists in Australia – Southern Cross University’s Professor Peter Harrison and Queensland University of Technology’s Professor Matthew Dunbabin – have come up with a perfect solution.

In a bid to restore the Great Barrier reef to its former glory, the pair designed an undersea robot, called LarvalBot, to deliver larval coral to the reef.

As described by one of the scientists, the process is similar to fertilizing your lawn. Except, in this case, it would be in a beautiful, yet complex underwater ecosystem.

In an interview, Dunbabin said;

“As it glides along, we target where the larvae need to be distributed so new colonies can form and new coral communities can develop.”

The researchers began their quest back in November when they gathered the seeds.

In what they called “IVF for coral” at the time, the scientists collected millions of coral egg cells and sperm. Then in December, LarvaBot made its first delivery.

Reports reveal that the second expedition will not happen until October to November. Why this period?

According to the researchers, its the reef’s natural mass spawning period. So, when the undersea robot dives down to drop millions of larvae, the researchers believe it will give it the best chance to grow into brand new corals.

Read More: Reef Design Lab is Using 3D Printing to Save the Coral Reefs

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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    John Usrey April 16 at 8:01 am GMT

    This robot gave me an immediate grasp to feeling good vibes. One great invention for humanity 🙂

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