The Nature Conservancy Launched National Online Competition to Name Underwater Robot

nature-conservThe Nature Conservancy launched a national online competition to help name its new remotely operated vehicle (ROV). This September, the Conservancy will launch the first controlled study of its kind on the West Coast, using the ROV to assess the impact of trawl fishing off California’s Central Coast.

The public is invited to vote for their favorite name online. The competition will be open until midnight on August 31. The winning name will be announced on September 25 on nature.org.

The nominations are:

* Beagle -Darwin’s famous ship. Did you know that it’s his 200th birthday this year?
* Petrale Patrol - Our ROV has sole…
* Rachel Carson - An environmental legend and an inspiration.
* Rock Lobster - What is a sea robin exactly?
* Nemo - In honor of our latest underwater adventure.

“The Nature Conservancy’s ROV was acquired with help from the California Ocean Protection Council and the State of California Coastal Conservancy, and we’re honored by their confidence in our cutting-edge approach to science,” said The Nature Conservancy Lead Marine Scientist Dr. Mary Gleason. “We thank them, and all of our partners, for their support in our effort to promote better management of California’s marine resources.”

The ROV - an underwater robot that “flies” just above the seafloor - gathers high-resolution video and still photographs of marine life and habitats - vital data in the fight to save California’s threatened oceans. The research will focus on soft-bottom seafloor habitats.

This innovative project has the potential to yield otherwise unobtainable data on habitats hundreds of feet below the ocean. The species and habitats under study are often found amid broad continental shelves, deep canyons and offshore reefs and banks - areas beyond the reach of divers. The ROV enables researchers to travel to these hard-to-reach places, expanding their ability to explore and understand these deep underwater realms.

With the help of the ROV, the research team - comprised of the Conservancy, California State University Monterey Bay, National Marine Fisheries Service, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Marine Applied Research and Exploration (MARE) and fishing partners - will evaluate how trawl fishing affects the ocean bottom and monitor the recovery of already-trawled seafloor habitats.

“By partnering with MARE, a non-profit focused on using advanced technology for marine research, and investing in and sharing this state-of-the-art ROV with a wide variety of researchers, The Nature Conservancy is greatly expanding our ability to view and understand California’s coastal ecosystems,” said Marine Applied Research and Exploration Co-Founder Dirk Rosen.

Data collected by the ROV can also be used to enhance other Conservancy efforts, such as our partnerships with local fishermen to pioneer environmentally and economically sustainable fishing techniques. These fishermen are leasing Conservancy-owned trawling permits and testing alternative gear; when combined with ROV findings, the information gathered by the fishermen can help inform management decisions for the fishery and establish models for innovative marine conservation around the world.

The Conservancy’s ROV will also be employed to assist the California Department of Fish and Game, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), MARE and other partners to research and monitor deep-sea habitats in the Channel Islands Marine Protected Areas. Using ROVs, scientists are collecting video to document deep habitats and the abundance of fish within and outside the marine reserves. The findings will help resource managers track changes in the environment, help determine the effectiveness of marine protected areas and guide best management practices.

The Nature Conservancy’s ROV was acquired through a grant from the California Ocean Protection Council, which was provided by the State of California Coastal Conservancy.


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