Underwater Robot Has Potential To Help Revive The World’s Dwindling Coral Reefs

by Paul Swade, Dec 28 2018

Larvae delivering robot aiming to restore global coral reefs
Test of larvae delivering underwater robot – Great Barrier Reef Foundation

The shrinking coral reefs around the world are a depressing but constant reminder of our collective failures to deal with climate change. However, all hope for a coral renaissance is not lost. In December 2018 an undersea robot developed by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) delivered as much as 100,000 heat resistant baby corals to the Great Barrier Reef. The coral larvae are from a species that have historically shown tolerance for the warm waters of Australia. Scientists from QUT plans to monitor the coral reefs over the first half of 2019 to ensure that the larvae grows. If the larvae delivering robot, called LarvalBot, proves to be deliver promising results the plan is to establish a fleet of them that has the potential to help reverse the deteriorating coral reefs around the world.

“We have plans to do this again in Australia and elsewhere and I’m looking forward to working with Professor Harrison and Southern Cross University, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and other collaborators to help tackle an important problem.

Professor Dunbabin, Queensland University of Technology

The development of the robot by QUT goes back to 2015 where the first iteration of it was aimed at autonomously finding and destroying the invasive crown of thorns starfish, abbreviated COT. COTs is a predatory starfish that feeds upon living coral colonies resulting in their breakdown, it has been identified as one of the Great Barrier Reef’s of the most critical threats, responsible for around 40% of the reefs decline. While the COTSBot, as it is called, has initially shown success, it is not a catch-all solution, as there is still need for manual human intervention to help kill off the remaining starfish.

This article is a part of a series on the world’s coral reefs, their destruction and potential future revival

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