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CSIRO develops bio robots to monitor the Indian Ocean

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CSIRO is leading a new India-Australia research project to better understand the Indian Ocean's climate and ecosystems.

Robotic floats armed with revolutionary new sensors will be launched in the Indian Ocean as part of the project being conducted by CSIRO in collaboration with the Indian National Institute of Oceanography (CSIR-NIO) and the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services.

The Indian Ocean contains vast fisheries and mineral resources that are of strategic importance to both Australia and India. It also plays a direct role in driving the climates of its surrounding regions - home to more than 16 per cent of the world's population.

To be launched in mid-2014, the new 'Bio Argo' floats will enhance the already successful Argo float technology to measure large-scale changes in the chemistry and biology of marine ecosystems below the Indian Ocean's surface.

The Argo floats are a network of 3600 free-floating sensors, operating in open ocean areas that provide real-time data on ocean temperature and salinity.

The 'Bio Argo' floats will include additional sensors for dissolved oxygen, nitrate, chlorophyll, dissolved organic matter, and particle scattering. They will target specific gaps in the current understanding of Indian Ocean ecosystems of immediate concern to India and Australia, such as the Bay of Bengal and the waters of north Western Australia.

CSIRO's Dr Nick Hardman-Mountford explains that the study of the Indian Ocean in this detail will help them investigate the origin and impact of marine heatwaves like the one that devastated the coral reefs and fisheries off north Western Australian in 2011, improving their prediction of them in the future.

CSIR-NIO Director, Dr Wajih Naqvi said the novel technological innovation will give researchers from both countries a new understanding of the Indian Ocean, especially the biogeochemistry of the Indian Ocean and how it is being impacted by human activities.

The proposed advances in ocean observation, ecosystem understanding and resources management, which will benefit the entire Indian Ocean Rim, can only occur through collaboration between India and Australia.

Dr Nick D'Adamo, Head of the Perth Programme Office supporting UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) - a partner in the project - praised the collaborative nature of the project.

The $1 million project was funded in part by the Australian Government under the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

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