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Space-age lab expands underwater research

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Space-age lab expands underwater research

Δημοσίευση  lkarapa Την / Το Δευ Ιουν 29, 2009 7:29 am

Ice caps melt as oceans heat up. But could they also be losing oxygen?

No one knows for sure, but that’s one of the things researchers at the UVic-led Victoria Experimental Network Under the Sea keep up-to-the-minute track of.

VENUS is an underwater cabled observatory in the Saanich Inlet. It’s made up of cameras and censors that let researchers interact in real-time with experiments at the bottom of the sea. There’s no cable observatory like it. It’s the most interactive and complex sub-sea laboratory in the world.

Researchers plan to expand their studies thanks to a recent $4.4 million funding boost from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. The project was one of four at the university to receive $33.5 million in grants.

“In the past, you would do your research with an instrument package that was operated by batteries and you would lower it off a search vessel and it would sit on the bottom,” said VENUS project manager Adrian Round.

“You couldn’t talk to it, you really couldn’t do much with it other than when you pulled it up, you could look at the data.”

Round said that was problematic. Researchers would collect samples every hour, and if something exciting happened, they missed it.

Now, researchers drive underwater cameras and collect data instantly.

Round said oceans have been “terribly under-sampled” in the past. The Saanich Inlet is a sheltered body of water, and researchers once thought systems were pretty static.

But sensors indicate oxygen levels change four times in the span of two to three hours. So animals go from lots of oxygen to almost no oxygen.

“It’s like us running up to Everest and back down every four hours,” he said. “How do the animals adapt to it? How might that affect the fish?”

It’s a natural process in the Saanich Inlet, but Round said researchers haven’t been studying it on this scale long enough to fully understand what it means.

“Have we been paying attention to it in the past on a scale that lets us know if this is something new? Or has this always been there and we’ve just never been aware of it?”

Anyone can download the data from their computer and “play armchair scientist.”

The latest funding will help take the projects’ equipment to the next level and better understand the “wide range of threats to the oceans around the world. Collapse of fisheries, habitat destruction, global warming, (and) ocean acidification.”

Rounds said biologists not only need tools to find out what ocean “critters” are doing, but also to discover how ocean chemistry effects them.

Chemists, biologists and oceanographers used to work separately. But VENUS is multi-disciplinary lab.

“Now you’ve got this whole community working together and all sorts of linkages that were not found, start coming to life,” he said.

lweighton@vicnews.com
http://www.bclocalnews.com/vancouver_island_south/victorianews/news/49202312.html
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lkarapa
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Αριθμός μηνυμάτων : 1933
Ηλικία : 47
Τόπος : Άγιοι Ανάργυροι
Registration date : 22/11/2008

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