Since 2010, scientists from the Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) at the National University of Singapore and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (Smart) Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modelling (Censam), have been harnessing advanced technologies to monitor environmental stressors, including algal blooms.
The project is funded by the National Research Foundation.
“The sea, as a research field, is a very challenging environment to collect data. Autonomous fleet of vehicles are able to collect relatively more data, more accurately as opposed to traditional methods,” said Mr Tawfiq Taher, a senior research manager at Smart Censam.
“Due to the harsh nature of the sea, the robots are required to be robust and resilient to the extreme weather conditions.”
Local fish farms here have been badly hit by algal blooms in recent years. Just two years ago, 77 farms were affected by the blooms which wiped out 500 to 600 tonnes of fish – about one-tenth of local farms’ yearly produce that year.
Some of the most exciting environmental sensing research happening in the world is being completed by SMART: the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology. The partnership helps Singapore’s government develop research and technologies to combat overpopulation and environmental crises. Tawfiq Taher, an MIT research manager within SMART, uses Kingfisher to respond to unexpected scenarios like a sudden algae bloom.
Prof. Nicholas Patrikalakis, left, and Tawfiq Taher, right, displaying the inside of an underwater robot for collecting data on ocean algae. Credit Jane A. Peterson
In one of the labs, where another Smart group investigates environmental problems and is already on its second contract, Prof. Nicholas Patrikalakis of M.I.T. said he too found Singapore a better fit for his research. His team builds stingray-like robots that collect data to fight ocean algae; test beds are right off the coast. “This lab was specially built for us with totally new, state-of-the-art equipment,” he said. “That doesn’t happen in Boston.”
Dr Pablo Valdivia y Alvarado fetaured in an article entitled Marine wonderland in motion, a Science Spotlight on the National Research Foundation of Singapore’s website (NRF). “Inspired by the biological features of marine creatures, researchers at CENSAM have developed seal-whisker sensors and soft-gel stingrays to measure the quality of sea waters in Singapore.”
Bio-inspired innovation – A whisker-like sensor to pick up cues from the surrounding water pressure.
President at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Centre’s Environmental Sensing and Modelling (CENSAM) lab, testing out the shape reconstruction sensors which could be used on autonomous vehicles.