CoralspeQ Update — “Global Coral Bleaching Project”

Hey guys – as an interlude to updates about the MultispeQ v.1.0 device, here’s an exciting post from Atsuko Kanazawa about the CoralspeQ – a different PhotosynQ-connected device which measures coral bleaching.  The CoralspeQ team is currently raising money to alpha test their device and concept.  If you’re passionate about our oceans and understanding them better, go support their efforts!  More MultispeQ updates next time.  Till then, enjoy! — Greg

 

Global Coral Bleaching Project

-Atsuko Kanazawa

Some of you have already read recent news articles (see the Washington Post and the New York Times) about the severe effect of El Niño in 2015 and 2016.

Termed “Godzilla El Niño,” a weather pattern that will warm the oceans where many coral reefs live, leading to a catastrophic coral bleaching event would be the worst in 20 years. On October 8, 2015, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced “third ever global coral bleaching event on record” (see NOAA news for details).As the oceans warm and acidify, corals bleach, losing the photosynthetic algae that give them energy. Bleaching then leads to loss the diverse and beautiful life that lives in the coral reefs.

Photo by Aaron Florn

The Godzilla El Niño may also be our best chance to understand why some corals are more sensitive, why some recover and other can’t, and thus what we can do, if anything, to fix the problem. A major problem is that the tools needed to probe corals have not been available to most of the world.

The “Global Coral Bleaching Project” was first conceived by Prof. Peter Ralph at University of Technology at Sydney in Australia, Prof. David Kramer at Michigan State University, and Dr. Atsuko Kanazawa also at MSU, who saw the potential of PhotosynQ – engaging the local community world-wide to monitor and to collect the vast on-site data. To respond to the proposed project, the Kramer Lab at MSU, and our colleagues around the world, are developing a first-of-its-kind technology that will allow researchers, park rangers and citizen scientists all over the world to probe coral health and the factors that may affect bleaching. Data from field sites is instantly uploaded to the cloud where people around the world can access and analyze it. This data will help to understand the coral bleaching process, and lead to new coral conservation approaches.

You can help support this important research by supporting our crowd-funding campaign here at this link

Prof. Peter Ralph using a modified MultispeQ on corals at Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef
Prof. Peter Ralph using a modified MultispeQ on corals at Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef

CoralspeQ Technical Updates

The current CoralspeQ prototype version 1.5 has micro spectrometer, various LEDs and BGR light sensor, controlled by Teensy 3.1. At this stage, we are still using a store-bought non-metal electrical conduit box that is larger than the first prototype to house a full-size board and batteries (see Figure 1).
We have tested how well it was water-proofed. It could withstand in the depth of 4.3 m/ 14 ft for at least 30 min with sealer/gasket/rid modifications.  CoralspeQ is controlled by an Android phone with Bluetooth. We found a reasonably-priced water-proofed case for the phone. It is claimed to withstand to the depth of 100 ft. It worked well in 14 ft. Figure 2 (A and B) shows a device strapped to a broom at the bottom of 14 ft diving pool. A black square at the bottom corner is a phone in a water-proof case.

Figure 1, 2A, 2B
Figure 1, 2A, 2B

Additionally, we have tested the Bluetooth function in salt water. The Android phone screen covered with a bag of baby oil could send signal to CoralspeQ 1.5 and activate the measurement. Same as MultispeQ, CoralspeQ also needs to be turned on by pushing a start button, but under water. Magnetic reed switch is installed inside of the box, and therefore, it can be turned on from outside using a magnet without opening the box.

The next step is to test them in the field. Currently, 6 different LEDs are installed in different combinations in 3 devices. The field measurements will tell us which wavelengths would be more useful to identify the conditions of both coral and symbiotic algae. Also, we are expecting the modifications of device based on the field trial for the next version.

Updates: CoralspeQ/ AquaspeQ to measure coral bleaching

Shrink-wrapped devices

We have been working on the modification of MultispeQ for the under-water use.

In order to establish the connection between an Android phone and a MultispeQ, they have to be very close, meaning they have to be in the same enclosure—a plastic bag. However, phone’s touch-screen does not work in salt water. Venny (Vanessa) found out that placing a thin plastic bag, containing baby oil, on the screen solved this problem.

Kathryn and Geoff R. tested the inductive charging set (5V kit from Adafruit), and yes, it can charge the phone. This way, we do not need a USB cable hanging out from the phone. We could seal the instruments completely inside of e.g. a plastic bag. So the next step is modifying the MultispeQ charging system.

We also tried different plastic bags/ tubes to encase the entire device. The best material we found so far is the polyethylene heat-sealable shrink film. We still need to perfect the sealing, but the initial test showed being water-tight, and minimal air space (=minimal buoyancy).

I will post more updates when available!