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Portugal is developing a prototype to monitor oceans and to promote a sustainable management of resources

A group of Portuguese researchers is creating an autonomous multitrophic system to monitor oceans in an integrated way, allowing a more sustainable management of marine resources and a reduction the environmental impact.

The integrated ocean monitoring made possible by the MarinEye (a multitrophic prototype for ocean monitoring) will make it possible to identify changes in biodiversity.

Until now, it was not possible to observe and interpret different ocean components (physical, chemical, biochemical and biological) simultaneously, together with different trophic levels, from microorganisms to marine mammals. Using advanced technology, the MarinEye will be able to analyse these matters  in a synchronised way.

The project is being developed by different research groups from the Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR), in partnership with three other institutions – INESC TEC, the Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute  (IPMA), and the Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre (MARE – IP Leiria).

“Life on this planet depends on oceanic processes, as they produce most of the oxygen available on Earth, they regulate the climate, and provide various living and non-living resources, such as food, energy, transportation, or medications. Therefore, it is important to know more and more about the oceans and about how marine organisms interact with each other and with the environment. This way, we can understand how these processes influence the global stability of the oceans”, explains Catarina Magalhães, researcher at CIIMAR and coordinator of project MarinEye.

The project, which will be concluded in April 2017, will feature different modules. The first is a multisensory system composed of different physical and chemical sensors that will measure, for example, parameters such as temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, among others, and an optical sensor platform that will be used to measure dissolved carbon dioxide. The second module is an autonomous filtering system designed to filter water, that retains and preserves the DNA of the different classes of microorganisms that inhabit and represent the largest biomass of the oceans. The third module is a high resolution imaging system, which will be collecting images of phyto and zooplankton to assess their abundance and diversity. The last module features an acoustics system capable of collecting hydro-acoustic data; the goal is to collect information regarding the presence of mammals and to estimate the abundance of fish.

All these modules will then be fit into an integrated autonomous system that will lead to the MarinEye prototype. This system will also feature a platform that will integrate all types of data to be generated, as well as software that will make it possible to visualise and summarise data, and a series of models where the goal is to integrate and identify connections between the different chemical, physical and biological parameters obtained through the different MarinEye modules.

“The type and amount of information that the MarinEye will give access to will constitute a solid foundation for building a system that will allow us to manage marine resources more efficiently”, explains Eduardo Silva, coordinator of INESC TEC’s Centre for Robotics and Autonomous Systems.

The project partners will play different roles in project MarinEye. CIIMAR is the project promoter and, together with the IPMA and MARE-IP Leiria, they bring in a team of biologists and chemists of different specialties who will be validating the variables obtained with the different modules of the MarinEye. INESC TEC brings to the project a team of robotics researchers, as well as optical fibre specialists and a team that specialises in data analytics, who will be in charge of developing the robotics, sensing and software components to visualise and integrate data, respectively.

Project MarinEye (PT02_Aviso4_0017) is funded by the EEA Grants Program (, in about 400 thousand euros.

For more information:

Joana Desport Coelho

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Porto, 23 February 2016

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