- Scientists have a plan to use robots to regenerate the Great Barrier Reef.
- They will use robotic technology developed to help control the crown-of-thorns starfish.
- The semi-autonomous robot, LarvalBot, will help deliver tiny baby coral larvae onto reefs.
Scientists have a plan to send a mother robot out to the Great Barrier Reef to seed hundreds of millions of baby corals, helping revive areas damaged in bleaching events.
QUT’s underwater robot RangerBot — developed to fight the crown-of-thorns starfish — has been transformed into LarvalBot by the university’s robotics team, led by Professor Matthew Dunbabin from the Institute for Future Environments.
The collaboration between QUT and Southern Cross University, funded by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, aims to accelerate the recovery of reef areas.
Large volumes of coral spawn will be captured and transferred into fine mesh pools for almost a week until the larvae is ready to be re-settled.
“We concentrate the larvae and put some of these into LarvalBot to gently squirt the larvae onto dead reef areas allowing it to settle and transform into coral polyps or baby corals,” says Southern Cross University’s Professor Peter Harrison
“The surviving corals will start to grow and bud and form new colonies which will grow large enough after about three years to become sexually reproductive and complete the life cycle.”
The scientists explain:
Professor Dunbabin says delivering baby corals and helping grow the Great Barrier Reef builds on the pioneering robotics technology developed to control the crown-of-thorns starfish.
“I am passionate about protecting the reef in any way I can and extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with world leaders in coral reef restoration,” he says.
“We aim to have two or three robots ready for the November spawn. One will carry about 200,000 larvae and the other about 1.2 million.
“During operation, the robots will follow pre-selected paths at constant altitude across the reef and a person monitoring will trigger the release of the larvae to maximise the efficiency of the dispersal.”
The scientists calculate each robot can cover 1,500 square metres an hour.
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