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Ocean Kickstarter of the Month: New Robot to Explore the Depths of Yellowstone Lake

We are engineers and explorers who plan to help Yellowstone scientists make what could be tomorrow’s greatest discoveries.

New Robot to Explore the Depths of Yellowstone Lake

The Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration is a non-profit engineering group that designs and builds robots to explore the world’s oceans and large lakes. They are trying to build Yogi, a small research ROV to explore the depths of Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone Lake is a fascinating water body, with hydrothermal vents similar to the deep-sea vents that my primary research focuses on.

I’ll let them explain why this project is so cool:

Why explore Yellowstone Lake?

Yellowstone started a proud tradition of protecting our planet’s most unique environments when it became the world’s first National Park more than a century ago. However, there is a part of Yellowstone that very few people have visited. An entire ecosystem that is hidden from us at the surface. A place that scientists are eager to study and may harbor unknown life; the depths of Yellowstone Lake.

We now know that the bottom of the Lake is far from barren, hosting species of crustaceans, sponges, and even small creatures that feed off of the Earth’s heat and chemistry rather than the Sun. ‘Thermophilic’ (or hot water-loving) microbes thrive in the relatively high-temperatures immediately surrounding active thermal features at the bottom of the Lake and scattered throughout Yellowstone Park. These creatures may be microscopic but they have the potential to profoundly influence the medical and biological sciences.

New Robot to Explore the Depths of Yellowstone Lake

Onward to the Ocean Kickstarter Criteria!

1. Is it sound, reasonable, and informed by science? Yes, 100%, absolutely. This is part of an ongoing study that began in the 1980’s and is supported by the National Park Service.

2. Is there a clear goal, timeline, and budget; and are they partnering with the people who have experience hitting those marks? Again, if you’re going to pitch building a robot to dive in Yellowstone Lake, these are the folks to have on your team. Not only do they have extensive experience in marine robotics, but they have significant experience building underwater robots to dive in Yellowstone Lake. The Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration is matching every donation, so they have substantial financial resources already invested in this project. They already have a design and MBARI is providing the control software.

3. Do some of the parties involved have a successful record with other crowdfunding projects and experience delivering on rewards. You know, it really doesn’t look like they do, but that’s not really a problem for a project like this. They clearly have the skills and expertise to succeed. When you back a high-concept science project, as opposed to a “you get the product” Kickstarter, you’re backing the science because you love science, not because you want the Kickstarter Reward. So whether or not they can deliver the promised rewards is really a secondary question to whether or not they can complete the project. Besides that, they’ve clearly selected rewards that are manageable for a team for whom fulfilling crowdfunding rewards is not their life’s ambition. They also seem to have latched on to the most important goal of crowdfunding science: building a community around your research.


Deep-sea biologist, population/conservation geneticist, backyard farm advocate. The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.


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