Australian scientists are set to begin testing new equipment that can detect the presence of ocean plankton as part of an ocean research project.
The Queensland Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (DDFW) is working with scientists from Australia, the US, Germany, China, New Zealand and South Africa to install a $500,000 sea-monitoring buoy on a research vessel.
“The buoy has been installed on the research vessel to monitor plankton growth in the ocean,” DDFW marine scientist Dr Matthew Gough said.
“We are looking at using the buoy to determine if the buoy will be able to detect plankton if there is a strong current flow.”
The buoy is expected to be operational in two to three weeks.
The buoy will collect information about plankton on the sea floor, along with other information about the ocean environment.
Dr Gough told the ABC the research was aimed at understanding how plankton survive in a highly dynamic environment.
“I would say it is the most challenging of all of the ocean research projects,” he said.
The project will also involve a research boat and an oceanographic research vessel that will collect data to determine how planktons are being affected by the changing conditions in the deep ocean.
Dr Dennison said the buoy was part of a research project that would also involve an oceanographer, an underwater archaeologist and an underwater surveyor.
“What the buoy does is it helps us to understand the dynamics of plankton at the ocean surface,” Dr Dennisons said.
He said it was hoped the buoy could provide a way to detect whether or not plankton were dying.
“If we have a strong enough current to push these plankton through the surface of the water, they may survive for a few weeks or a month,” Dr Gough explained.
“However if the current is less than that, it is just going to stop them coming in and it may not be able pick them up.”
Dr Darnison said he hoped the system could also be used to help researchers understand how planktronomy works.
“There are a number of people working on the same project at the same time, but this is the first one that we are actually working on together,” he explained.
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