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Lecture tonight will update public on BIOS’ new glider

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BIOS has an exciting new tool to help them gather vital data on the state of the ocean around us ­— a $190,000 aquatic robot.

The robot comes in the form of a six ft long, 100lb glider that is battery operated.

Dr Bill Curry, President and Director of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), will be giving a lecture about the new glider and other similar technology, today at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute (BUEI).

The lecture will be called Exploring New Frontiers of Ocean Research.

The glider will be used to help with BIOS' Bermuda Atlantic Time Series (BATS) project. BATS was set up in 1988 to help scientists answer questions about the ocean by collecting data from multiple sites in the Sargasso Sea.

A team from BIOS regularly goes out to these fixed sites known as hydrostations, to gather data such as the temperature of the ocean, and the salinity, among other things.

The data collected has been used by scientists from around the world to answer “big picture” questions about the ocean, such as the impact of climate change on the ocean.

“Our ships go out a couple times a month to take measurements,” said Dr Curry. “These gliders will stay out there between ship visits and take a subset of measurements that we would do when the ship is there.

The glider will do about four to six 1,000-meter deep dives a day.

That will provide us with a different scale of resolution of the time series data.

“We will be able to look at day and night variations in ocean temperature, the salinity effects of rain storms and things like that on a scale you don't see if you are just going out there every couple of weeks.”

However, the glider's data compliments the ships' work rather than replaces it. The gliders only have limited measurement capability and can not collect a sample and take it back to shore.

The glider has an oil filled bladder that expands and contracts to change the density of the device.

When it is more dense than seawater it sinks, and when it is less dense it comes back to the surface.

It has wings and goes forward when it dives. It also has antennae that can relay data back to base such as its location, the power level of its battery and more.

BIOS is hoping to get a second similar glider, through a foundation in the United States, by the end of the year. The second glider will be a companion to the first with slightly different sensors.

One might expect that the glider might be vulnerable to shark attacks, and Dr Curry said other similar gliders had been found with bite marks.

“I am not worrying about that much,” he said. “Our biggest worry with this is that we are at the beginning stages of learning how to operate it properly.

“We have a big learning curve ourselves as to how to do this well. We are trying to make all the right moves in the early stages.”

The manufacturer recently held a training session in Bermuda for BIOS attended by BIOS staff members, and also people from several other institutions which have bought similar gliders.

“We have only launched it in test mode,” said Dr Curry. “This particular glider was in the water during the course for short and shallow dives.”

They plan to launch it properly, for the first time, next week.

Dr Curry said he and BIOS staff are both very excited and very nervous.

“It will be the first time this particular glider has done anything close to its maximum depth capacity which is 1,000 meters,” said Dr Curry. “We will be extremely nervous when we first go out. We will be looking at operations and our ability to control it.

“I think we will know within a month, or so, how good we are at controlling it. It will take a longer period of time to know the scientific value added to BATS.

“Over the next couple of years we will do several tests to see how accurate is it compared to the ship based observations.

“We will be looking at what kind of value we derive from getting these measurements several times a day.”

Dr Curry said the glider won't pose a threat to marine traffic, although marine traffic might pose a threat to it.

“The boat would win,” said Dr Curry. “If a boat struck it, the glider might be damaged beyond repair.”

He advised that if you come across the glider or something similar off Bermuda, to leave it alone.

There is usually an owner name and number on the glider, and interested parties can call the number and report seeing the glider.

At the lecture at the BUEI, Dr Curry will talk about the different types of robotic systems available to help with ocean research.

The glider is not the only option for marine scientists.

“I will give people a sense of what is happening and how robotics is effecting marine science,” he said. “I will also talk about the opportunities for students who want to study such instruments. They could do that through the BIOS internship programme.”

The lecture will be held at BUEI tonight (Friday) at 7.30pm. Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for non-members available by calling 294-0204 or by visiting BUEI's Oceans Gift Shop.

Ticket holders are entitled to ten percent off dinner at Harbour Front Restaurant before or after the lecture starts.

BIOS staff prepare to test their new glider to be used to collect ocean data.
Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences new glider to be used to take ocean measurements.

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Published June 20, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated June 19, 2014 at 6:55 pm)

Lecture tonight will update public on BIOS’ new glider

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