Science

Developing an ‘Ocean Tricorder’

Star Trek was first shown on terrestrial TV in 1966. It’s use of gadgetry for communication and to scan objects (including the human body) required imagination and design. The Tricorder was the design of artist Wah Chang. The Tricorder was a hand held device, easily portable which could scan, record and upload its information into the main computer.

Professor Marcel Jaspars, from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Natural and Computing Sciences, is part of a team which wishes to use an ‘ocean tricorder’ to look at the issue of deep sea mining and the potential damage it can do to the marine environment.

The project is part of The Blue Climate Initiative, a global collaborative which strives to enable innovation and research to build a sustainable planet.

Professor Jaspars said:

“The ocean moderates climate, taking up CO2, and storing some of it for tens of thousands of years; it acts as a heat sink and generates half of all the oxygen in the atmosphere. Without a healthy and biodiverse ocean, runaway climate change is likely, and thus preserving it should be foremost in any plan to mitigate climate change. Preserving biodiversity is essential and should include all life-forms, from microbial up to charismatic megafauna, but in order to preserve this, we first need to know what all is there to be preserved!

 “An “Ocean Tricorder” – like the science-fiction tricorder of the Star Trek universe that can quickly assess properties of interest in real-time – would allow us to record all lifeforms in a specific part of an ocean at the push of a button.

“The device would provide a step-change in the speed and scope of marine science by decreasing reliance on collecting and transporting samples for later sequencing and analysis. It would also allow us to increase our understanding of how the vast biological diversity correlates with the ecosystem function.

“It’s not only the science community who would benefit from an Ocean Tricorder – it also has the potential to motivate new technologies that would be highly valuable for resource managers and offshore industries.

“The technology already exists in part; it just needs to be developed further and could really help answer a lot of questions about the species we know are in the ocean and those that we haven’t discovered yet.”

The Blue Climate Initiative is funded by the Tetiaroa Society: https://www.tetiaroasociety.org/