Underwater observatory to monitor organisms during typhoons

A new underwater observatory has been launched to monitor with advanced technology what happens underwater with small organisms during a typhoon, it has been announced.

The submerged observatory, by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan, examined microscopic organisms that drifted in the sea that can also withstand the force of a typhoon.

The platform, set up by the Marine Biophysics Unit off the Motobu peninsula, is made of a dozen ocean-monitoring tools including cameras, wave monitors and temperature sensors. Located 20m below the surface, the station uses power from a nearby aquarium.

“We know what happens before typhoons, and after, as soon as it’s safe, you can get a boat out,” said researcher Mary Grossmann. “But we don’t know what happens during typhoons,” she added.

Researchers used a customised imaging system to take four high-res photos every second every 30 microliters of ocean – the equivalent of a droplet of water. They identified more than 50,000 plankton for this study including diatoms, radiolarians, copepods, isopods and some small forms of shrimp, jellies and fish.

““The water is very blue and very clear, so you can see really deep, and that means there’s nothing in it,” said Grossmann.

The findings have shown that most microorganisms kept their patterns and even in the middle of a huge typhoon it presented consistent migratory habits.  

Grossmann and her team plan to mount a camera that would take photographs at every depth to capture a more comprehensive picture.

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