Saturday , October 23 2021

Meet LarvalBot, the little robot trying to bring the Great Barrier Reef back to life


A few years ago, a claim allegedly made by scientists claimed that the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia's most appreciated natural wonders, was in fact "officially" dead.

Now, although this overarching comment has been debunked as not entirely true, it has raised awareness about the current state of health of the reef, which is far from rosy.

Thanks to the effects of climate change, the reef is suffering from unprecedented levels of coral bleaching, which makes the reef resemble something closer to a ghost town than a vibrant ecosystem full of life. Unfortunately, the reef runs the risk of losing more corals if preventative measures are not taken.

Although we started off on a bad note, I'm here as a bearer of good news! Since last week, new innovative technologies are being used to help our reef.

Reef and fish

In a press release, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) revealed that, in a first world, an underwater robot dispersed baby corals (coral larvae) across the reef in an attempt to turn the tides of fate.

The small helper, known as LarvalBot, was developed by a team led by Professor Matthew Dunbabin of QUT and Professor Peter Harrison of Southern Cross University. The robot was first deployed at Vlasoff Reef, near Cairns, in northern Queensland.

This groundbreaking project comes just six weeks after Harrison and Dunbabin won the Great Barrier Reef Foundation's $ 300,000 Blue Box Reef Innovation Challenge, proving that the right decision was made.

The project follows Harrison's new larva technique, which was first tested on the Great Southern Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017. Harrison says:

"This year represents a major step for our larval restoration research and the first time we have been able to capture coral spawn on a larger scale using large floating spawn pickups, then creating tiny coral larvae in our specially constructed larval pools. them in areas of damaged reefs.

Winning the GBRF Reef Innovation Challenge meant that we could scale up the work planned for this year using mega spawn collectors and accelerate the initial testing of LarvalBot as a new method of dispersing coral larvae in Reef. "

LarvalBot is currently capable of carrying about 100,000 coral larvae per mission, but will soon be able to carry much more – perhaps even millions more. After the small bot releases the larvae, it setstles in the damaged areas of the reef and, over time, will develop into new coral polyps or baby corals.

Is not it the most beautiful thing you've read all day?

Professor Dunbabin describes the process:

"Using an iPad to program the mission, a signal is sent to deliver the larvae and is gently removed by LarvalBot. It's like spreading fertilizer on your lawn.

The robot is very intelligent and, as it slides, we target where the larvae need to be distributed so that new colonies can form and new coral communities can develop. "

Anna Marsden, General Director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, commented on how amazing it was to see this project move from concept to implementation so quickly, particularly due to recent concerns that we only have a very short window to act before the reef is beyond helping.

The official title of the initiative is the Larval Restoration Project of 2018, and you can be sure that we will follow your progress with your breath held! You can follow up by following the links on your website and signing up to become a citizen of coral reef.

Main Image Credit: The Larval Restoration Project of 2018

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