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Technologies for Ocean Sensing

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TechOceanS (Technologies for Ocean Sensing)

Reporting period: 2020-10-01 to 2022-03-31

There are significant gaps in our understanding and prediction of ocean biological and associated chemical processes due to too few observations. This impacts scientific understanding and limits efficiency in key industries including aquaculture, fisheries and offshore energy. Currently there is no way to easily collect widespread and continuous data sets.
To fill these data gaps, TechOceanS will demonstrate new sensor, imaging and sampler technologies enabling a step change in the worldwide ability to measure biology, chemistry and plastics in the global oceans from coast to deep sea.
The oceans cover over 70% of our planet, but critical marine habitats are overused or have been destroyed. There is a coordinated international request to develop and improve observation of ocean chemistry, biology and plastic pollution. Data from improved observations would improve models and understanding of ocean biology and chemistry and pollution threats, key to managing and optimising the oceans' role in regulating climate.
TechOceanS supports stakeholders in industry, aquaculture/fisheries, and the global ocean observing community through some of the following objectives:
· Create step change in the capability of non-ship observing systems to measure complex chemical and biological variables.
· Develop low-cost, mass-deployable sensor technologies and imaging techniques.
· Minimise sensor size and power requirements, enabling use on small and single platforms to host multiple systems so that all variables used in common models can be simultaneously measured.
· Develop low-cost and in situ sensors for aquaculture and fisheries including relevant chemical contaminants, biotoxins and environmental DNA, e.g. for pathogen and parasite quantification.
· Develop new sensors for micro/nanoplastics to enable the distribution and fate to be determined.
· Enable remote, real-time awareness of biology, benthic ecosystem type and litter observed by imaging systems by developing novel Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms to enable imaging systems to report information when data bandwidths are limited (e.g. in the remote or deep ocean).
The technologies developed include 5 sensors, 2 imaging systems, a sampler and a new image processing method using AI that enables transmission of information about key variables from the remote ocean. All the systems are robust and submersible to >2000 m.
The first reporting period has seen proof of concept for each of the technologies developed. Despite delays due to the global pandemic, progress has been made in all areas.
Theme 1 “Genomic sampling and nucleic acid sensing” focuses on the development of particle samplers and sensor technology that can quantify previously known genetic targets.
The particle/eDNA sampler known as RoCSI has been refined. It uses belts of cartridge-based filters that are sequentially filled with sample and then preservative. The key innovations have included increased robustness and alignment accuracy, increased sample capacity, and size reduction for improved integration in robotic vehicles.
A benchtop proof of concept high capacity (~1000 samples) filter based sampler has also been developed for operation on sediment/sand, mineral and microplastic particles.
Theme 1 has also developed an entirely new sensor concept for high sample number in situ nucleic acid detection using a novel microfluidic design and preserved assay ingredients for Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) and Recombinase Polymerase Amplification (RPA) assays. The specificity and sensitivity of the RPA assay is also being developed using CRISPR-CAS.
Theme 2 Imaging and optics
The development of a new miniaturised primary productivity sensor (MicroSTAF) is progressing with the basic optical design established and electronics and mechanical housing underway. The real time data processing functions developed under TechOceanS are currently being tested using the pre-existing AutoSTAF sensor in the North Atlantic within a robotic submarine.
This theme has developed intelligent image data processing methods to enable near real-time, remote awareness of different targets, e.g. particulate matter, phytoplankton (incl. primary production), zooplankton and microplastics.
Theme 3 (New microsensors) has seen progress across the 3 technology subthemes.
Two types of sensor have been developed to implement complex bio-assays (e.g. antibodies) which can be used for quantification of complex organics in ocean waters (e.g. hormones, or algal bloom toxins). One design uses a rotating disc with multiple chambers to perform multiple tests, and the other uses a new planar microfluidic concept similar to that of the Nucleic Acid sensor.
TechOceanS has developed functional benchtop prototypes of a microfluidic cytometry-based sensor for phytoplankton and microplastic counting and taxonomy.
Extensive progress beyond the state of the art and resulting socio-economic and wider societal impacts are expected from this innovative technology focused project. The principal outputs will be:
1. New instruments and samplers targeting poorly addressed chemical and biological ocean variables. We anticipate at least 15 new instruments or samplers using at least 8 new technologies as described above.
2. New methods of data processing and communication, particularly for imaging-based ocean measurement to enable information to be observed from remotely deployed imaging systems over low bandwidth communication links
3. Publications, manuals and procedures that will be made available through the Ocean Best Practices System.
These will lead to wider impacts including:
1. Commercial products and services that will derive socio-economic benefit from new industry.
2. “Enhanced global sea and ocean observation” as requested by the G7 Future of the Seas and Oceans initiative and required to support the Paris Climate Agreement, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and the needs of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive
3. Improvements in the ability to measure chemistry and biology in the oceans and related aquatic environments with reduced environmental impact.
4. Increased scientific knowledge ad capacity in marine technology in Europe and beyond
5. Skills development through documentation (OBPS), training and knowledge exchange
6. Development of and compliance with FAIR data principles improving efficiency and data access for all future user groups
In this reporting period we have:
1. Produced 12 sensor sampler and instrumentation prototypes, 3 of which have been trialled at sea.
2. Produced templates and initial versions of device manuals and associated procedures for development of documents into the globally accessible “Ocean Best Practices System”.
3. Produced a Plan for Exploitation and Dissemination of Results (PEDR) that includes stakeholder engagement and IP protection.
4. Developed an effective outreach strategy to raise awareness of the project. This included the development of an initial project factsheet and the curation of social media channels to grow an audience.
5. Established and updated the project website including enhanced security protocols.
6. Communicated with and established links with sister H2020 projects.
7. Published 3 peer reviewed articles to date and recorded one invention for consideration for IP protection and exploitation.
Theme 4 OBPS
Theme 2 reference dataset
Theme 5 factsheet
Theme 3 microfluidic valve and chip syringue pump system
Theme 1 sample collecting
Theme 4 templates
Theme 3 centrifugal toxin detection process
Theme 1 analysis
Theme 1 samples
Theme 4 Glider west testing in Tromso
Theme 1 sample collecting
Theme 5 branding guide chapters
Theme2 Seaglider with UVP6 in Tromso
Theme 1 analysis
Theme 4 templates list