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Ocean drones to study calanus migration

Akvaplan-niva has been using gliders (autonomous marine robots) rigged with multiple sensors very successfully for the last 4 years. Our fleet of gliders has collected data for several months in the Norwegian Arctic around the Lofoten Vesterålen islands providing new insight into marine ecosystem structure and functioning.  Recently Akvaplan-niva was awarded funding for a new project for expanded use of this technology by the ERA net, MATERA program.

New knowledge

The robots in use do not emit sound, vibration nor light, and as such are non-invasive unlike research vessels, allowing to collect data from an undisturbed ecosystem. Among our discoveries, we revealed that zooplankton biomass (Calanus) lies in the first 10-20 meters from the sea surface during spring time. Further, we detected the presence of sperm whales actively feeding in marine areas where this species had never been recorded previously. By sending our gliders to remote location we provided METOCEAN data of high value that we assimilated in existing models in order to improve weather forecasts. 

Calanus studies

While these discoveries confirmed the benefits of using autonomous vehicles in ocean science, the curiosity of Akvaplan-niva scientists increased for even further insight. They wanted to explore how gliders can be utilised to follow the yearly Calanus migration that hibernates in the deep Norwegian Sea at ca. 800 m and goes all the way up to the surface during spring to feed and reproduce. In order to be able to collect information to understand this migration process, our scientist need to develop new functionalities onboard of our glider vehicles. 

European consortium

This is the background for Akvaplan-niva joining in an European consortium and applied for funding from the MarTERA program of the ERA NET Cofund of the JPI Ocean of the European Union. The project is designed for integrating an acoustic echo sounder (EK80 WBT mini from Simrad) and an optical sensor (UVP6 from Hydroptic) onboard our Seaglider which can dive all the way down to 1000 m depth. The integration of these two sensors in the Seaglider will provide our scientists with the possibility to follow the ascent and descent of the zooplankton Calanus and also to understand where and how they hibernate in deep water.

The consortium is led by Sorbonne University (France), partners are the Institute of Marine Research (Norway), Kongsberg Maritime (Norway), Hydroptic (France), Institute of Oceanology of Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland), Officina Baltica spin-off of the University of Gdansk (Poland), Cyprus Subsea Consulting and Services (Cyprus). The project is from 2021 to 2022.