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Monday
Jan242011

Eyes in the deep

The medusa lander. Img courtesy Adrian FlynnIt’s nice to hear a familiar Aussie accent from time to time and so it was when Dr. Adrian Flynn joined the Abrolhos expedition.  Adrian hails from Melbourne but was based for a long time at my alma, the University of Queensland, where he applied tools developed in a collaboration between Dr. Justin Marshall at UQ and Lee Frey at Harbor Branch, to study animals in the deep sea.  Specifically, they designed and built Medusa, a “lander” that can be deployed off a ship or from a submersible to sit on the bottom and film animals in a much less intrusive way than would be possible with a manned vehicle.  The keys to the success of Medusa are that it can be left on the bottom for a prolonged period, that it can be baited to attract animals, and that it illuminates the surrounding scene using wavelengths of light that most deep-sea animals cannot sea.  This allows the custom cameras onboard to record animal behaviour without their knowing, which improves the chances that the behaviours recorded will be “typical” and not a response to the presence of the equipment.

The results have been fantastic, as you can see in the video below. In it,  Medusa is shown being deployed in the Coral Sea near Osprey Reef. Stay for the 6-gill shark at the end - it gets all Nom! Nom! Nom! on the tuna head!

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