citizen science

BRIZO collects data of the marine environments through the contribution of the global community of sport divers and professionals

Increasing the
knowledge of the oceans

On September 25, 2015, UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: it is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity articulated in 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Two of them are of primary importance:

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Actually,

        these two goals should be in the top two places, because climate change and its consequences affect all the people on the planet, rich and poor, and because the knowledge and protection of marine environments are fundamental to the global balance of resources.

Seas and Oceans

cover 71% of the Planet’s surface: not surprisingly, there are those who claim that our Planet should be called Ocean and not Earth. 

The Oceans are not only the cradle of all the life we know: it started there and then conquered the lands. They are the engine of the global climate and their conditions will determine the evolution of the future life of all the organisms that populate the planet, including human beings.

We know very little

of the Oceans and not only about their deepest recesses: even the shallowest coastal areas of a large part of the planet are unknown.

Thus, also marine life and its changes are largely unknown. This ignorance becomes even heavier in the face of the speed of change induced by the rapid evolution of the climate forced by human activities.

Knowing the sea is difficult

On earth we are able to reach every corner of the planet directly, to know every nuance of its surface and of the organisms that populate it through direct exploration, increasingly thanks to the tools of technology. 

The resolution of satellite images, the capacity of specialized sensors to describe more and more sophisticated parameters has taken away much of the mystery of “what’s behind the hill”. Yet new forms of life continue to be discovered.

The sea is opaque to instruments and sight

the satellites read its surface, but are unable to read except at very shallow depth. Electromagnetic waves stop at the surface and satellite geolocation (GPS or other systems), which is normal on land, under the sea does not work. On the mainland the visible horizon is miles away from the observer and if there are no obstacles it reaches the limit of the earth’s curvature. Therefore if observing the sea while standing on the shore the visible horizon is about 5 km; in the submerged environments the visibility rarely exceeds 40 m and in most cases much less. Under the sea the other side of the hill is not miles away, but a few meters from the observer.

Exploring the Oceans is
complicated and expensive

It is true, we have fairly detailed maps of some parts of Ocean bottoms, sometimes with high resolution, built through acoustics (side scan sonar and multibeam); we are able to draw bathymetric maps and to distinguish between them the areas covered by fine sand, from coarse debris, rock and seagrass meadows. But one thing is what geophysics tells us, as a descriptor of forms, a quite different thing is the so-called “sea truth”. 

Geophysics

The geophysics reads only the more or less horizontal surfaces, but it is not able to supply the detail of the vertical zones, of the overhanging ones, and worse of the indentations and of the cavities. 

Only in the case of seagrass meadows does geophysics tell us something about the life that covers the bottom, all the rest of life forms must be discovered with the punctual, direct and close view, the “sea truth”, precisely.

ROV

Exploring the “sea truth” is up to divers, wire-guided vehicles (ROVs) and submarines: all three have limitations and costs from high to very high. For divers there are time limits in diving, growing with increasing depth, area limits that can be explored over time and above all the lack of georeferencing systems of accessible cost and easy operation.

For the ROVs the limits are essentially the cost of both the machines and the control systems, which requires many specialized operators Submarines costs  rise to 6 zeros and are therefore limited to pharaonic projects that few can afford. Time and consequent costs are the main limiting factors for all.

Multi-parametric probes

Then there is the world of multi-parametric probes that collect chemical-physical data in general at fixed locations. However, compared to the vastness of the oceans, they are very few, point-like, and require periodic maintenance, often very expensive.

In short, collecting underwater data is complicated and expensive and the direct consequence is that we know the Moon and Mars much better than our Oceans: yet the whole life on the planet, including human communities, and the possibility of understanding the climate changes depend on the Oceans.

 

BRIZO
between Science and Citizen science

How can the ability to collect data on the marine environments be increased through the contribution of the global community of sports divers (Citizen science) and professionals (Science)?

Divers for science

Our answer is: collecting sensitive data in activities not determined for data collection, but for any other purpose for which millions of people worldwide frequent marine environments.

There is no certain data on how many enthusiasts are diving at a global level, but, according to a survey funded by the Sicily Region, in the world there are about 30 million certified divers (Project CUL.TUR.AS 2015) and, in Italy alone, there are about 250.000. If each of them wore a multi-parametric probe, the scientific community could count on millions of surveys in all the seas of the world, and this would be true even if a small percentage of them did.

BRIZO

Is intrinsically a wearable multi-parameter probe, as it collects informations related to:

  • Electrical conductivity for pH calculation

PH (from the Latin pondus hydrogenii, potential of hydrogen) is a scale for measuring the acidity of an aqueous solution. This is a fundamental parameter since the increase in the absorption of CO2 by marine waters creates an acidification phenomenon that interferes with all the organisms that build skeletons or carbonate niches (from plankton to coral reefs) and also with the reproductive capacity of fish.

  • Temperature

Temperature affects not only biological systems (e.g. triggers for reproductive events), but in general chemical-physical equilibria in the marine environment, including the solubility of gases (e.g. solubility of oxygen) and the pH. In the Mediterranean, the presence and depth of the thermocline is fundamental for short-term weather forecasts

  • 3D georeferencing of all data

The three-dimensional georeferencing (longitude, latitude and depth) not only allows one to locate the path and the points detected by the diver within geographic systems, but also georeferences the following parameters both geographically and in the water column

  • Date and time

It is fundamental data to relate the other collected data with the seasonal and daily cycles

BRIZO
the blue heart of a system

It has a digital “wet” port to which it will be possible to connect instruments and sensors that will be developed in the future.

The users

The new functions will be dedicated both to the world of recreational diving, scientific research and nature conservation. In the field of sports/recreational use, examples may be a BRIZO action camera dedicated to underwater photos or videos with direct transfer of georeferencing and environmental data collected by BRIZO into file metadata, or direct connection with the user’s camera via a port dedicated for similar data transfer. For use in scientific research and nature conservation it will be possible to connect temperature, conductivity, or pressure sensors, more accurate than those native in BRIZO itself; other sensors will be developed to measure the oxygen content or to detect microplastics in the water column. It should be noted that many of these additional functions will be developed from advanced optical technologies that are the specific competence of the team behind BRIZO

Sea truth

BRIZO allows users to georeference the “sea truth” in a simple and punctual way. Not only does it record the route, but through the dedicated button it allows georeferencing in 3D topical points (POI = Point Of Interest) such as: particular geomorphological formations, tunnels, caves, landscape details, protected organisms, rare organisms, organisms with high aesthetic value, natural impacts (mass mortality events), impacts of anthropic origin (abandoned objects or fragments, abandoned fishing gears, damage to organisms, uprooted organisms), presence of archaeological or historical remains, etc. Each POI can be associated with images, notes or samples collected while diving, and any other type of information available on site (or later). Through the POIs it is possible to make counts of organisms or objects, simply with the push of the button at each observation.

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