Conservation research in submarine caves is among the clearest and most compelling use-cases for a small observation-class ROV like Trident, which is why, last week, we delivered the very first ROV for Good Sofar Ocean Trident to Dr. Leocadio Blanco-Bercial at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences to study the hidden biodiversity in Bermuda’s Anchialine Caves.
Dr. Blanco-Bercial is a marine biologist who studies the diversity and evolution in invertebrates, especially those in marine cave ecosystems. Bermuda is home to a network of anchialine caves (caves connected to the sea through underwater passageways) which are home to a diverse array of rare and ancient arthropod lineages, many of which are unique to Bermuda. These species are under threat from land development and other human activities.
“From the science standpoint,” says Dr. Blanco-Bercial, “the Trident will give us independence from specialized divers availability, and will simplify the logistics associated with the sampling process – the Trident is easy to carry even by a single person – and sampling attachments and other gear is easily transportable by another colleague.”
Entering a submarine cave is a difficult, dangerous activity. With no straight path to the surface for SCUBA divers, an emergency situation can quickly turn deadly. Tight passageways and labyrinthine tunnels create a challenging environment to navigate through, especially laden with dive gear and sampling equipment. For researchers studying the delicate ecosystems of saltwater caves, remotely operated vehicles can provide access to cave systems while ensuring the research team’s safety.
Unsurprisingly, accessing the over 200 cave entrances scattered across Bermuda is challenging. Only a few are large enough to allow SCUBA divers to enter, and, even when accessible, divers risk damaging the fragile environment. Due to the difficulty of access as well as the inherent dangers of cave diving, arthropod diversity in Bermuda’s caves has only been assessed infrequently, with studies especially carried out in the ‘80s and by Dr. Blanco-Bercial’s team in 2016.
The Sofar Ocean Trident will be used to survey and sample these caves with a much lighter touch than a traditional SCUBA diver, providing access to the otherwise inaccessible reaches of Bermuda’s submerged caves. “The compact size and maneuverability of this ROV will allow us to sample with little disturbance in the cave, an protected and endangered ecosystem in Bermuda, and the video will help us recording the conditions and where we exactly sampled. And, beyond science, it will not expose anybody to one of the most dangerous scientific activities – cave diving. Apart from being a scientist,” concludes Dr. Blanco-Bercial, “I am a very cautious father!”
Do you have an amazing ocean conservation project that could benefit from a small ROV? Apply to Conservation X Lab’s ROVs for Good grant for an opportunity to receive your own Sofar Ocean Trident.