Tuesday, 25 July 2017
Sea gliders to monitor algal blooms in Oman
Sea gliders to monitor algal blooms in Oman

Muscat: Periodic algal blooms hitting the Omani coastal waters is a serious ecological issue resulting in numerous fish kill incidents, terminations in desalination plant functioning, and causing problems for numerous tourists visiting Omani beaches. In monitoring algal blooms, Sultan Qaboos University has worked out an innovative approach dealing with the application of sea gliders.

Sea gliders are autonomous robotic systems equipped with numerous sensors allowing recording of physical, chemical, and biological parameters of the water column. This records could be carried out every 6 hours, on the way to the surface (from the depth of about 1000m) and back.

Sergey Piontkovski, Associate Professor in the Department of Marine Sciences & Fisheries at SQU, is the Principal Investigator leading the project linking scientists from SQU, University of East Anglia, and Washington University. The team has launched two gliders in March 2015, with the prospective to keep them scanning the Omani shelf waters throughout the year, recharging batteries every 4 months.

In reaching the surface, the glider transmits recorded data via satellites and gets a new command- on what to do and where to sail. Data on vertical distribution of temperature, salinity, water density, current speed, dissolved oxygen concentration, phytoplankton biomass, and sound scattering layers (mainly formed by fish schools) could be complemented by a traditional sampling on board a research vessel coming from time to time to visit the glider.

The sampling based on glider's information allows scientists to understand what organisms and species have played the most important role in the formation of blooms and layers. On a long run, series of gliders cruising along the Omani shelf could set up a system of reliable monitoring, which the state needs so much.
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General contact:   Prof. Sergey Piontkovski spiontkovski@gmail.com
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