The youngest son of famed explorer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau continues his legacy of protecting the oceans with an innovative project involving sensors, science and you. In an interview with the Journal, Pierre-Yves Cousteau discusses his plan to “hack the ocean” with the help of IWC.
Taking the ocean’s temperature sounds really simple, but it seems difficult in reality. Why?
Access to high precision oceanographic data such as temperature has been restricted to very expensive and cumbersome professional equipment until today. The recent drop in cost and increase in accuracy of sensors combined with the developments of cloud technology make it now possible for anyone to collect valuable data for the scientific community.
Sure, a dive computer will tell you the surface and bottom temperatures of your dive (and we’re hoping to collect this information as well!) but their accuracy is generally off by several degrees and they provide no reliable indication of the depth at which temperatures change, sometimes minutely. One of the major focuses of this project is to identify and reveal “thermoclines”, which are layers of varying temperatures that occur at depth.
What’s the overall goal for Cousteau Divers?
Cousteau Divers is a non-profit group with the goal of bringing divers together to protect the world’s oceans and the life in them. Our long-term vision is to empower divers to become an “immune system” for the ocean, an early warning network of changes in physical and ecological changes.
Today, the ocean is warming rapidly because of human activity (especially the use of fossil fuels), which is having devastating effects on coral reefs and biodiversity. Similarly to when a sick patient visits the doctor, we are helping “take the temperature” of the ocean. We later want to measure additional parameters to add to this “diagnostic”.
Could you explain the sensors you’ll use for the project and how they work? What went into the design process?
The sensors use off-the-shelf parts combined in an innovative way by our volunteer engineers, led by Brad Bazemore and Brendan Walters.
The first 50 of the pilot deployment will measure temperature, depth and time of the dive. They will also take GPS points at the beginning and end of the dive as well as measure acceleration and compass heading during the dive. After the dive, as soon as the sensor recognizes a Wi-Fi network, it will send the information to the online cloud platform. The design process was highly focused on ease-of-use for the diver, to make sure that no time is wasted handling the sensors or the data.
What happens to the information after it’s collected and what's the practical benefit?
Once the data reaches the cloud, it is openly available for anyone to consult. Our focus is in gathering the data and making it available, for the scientific community as well as for technology enthusiasts who wish to “play with the data”. The beauty of this project, what makes me most excited about it all, is that we are providing a new experience for the diver, enabling each one to explore the information about his or her dive with unprecedented granularity. We do not yet know what they will find on their adventures, but we’re making it possible for them to explore a new dimension. Every time these first 50 sensors get in the water, it will be the first time ever that temperatures are revealed with such precision.
What other organizations are helping with the project?
Along with IWC, our main partner is Blue Robotics, who will handle the assembly and distribution of the sensors. Additional partners include the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the Divers Alert Network Europe (DAN Europe) and the University of Queensland.
How many dive centers are participating and where are they located and how can divers get involved?
There are currently several dozen dive centers awaiting their sensors, and they are located all around the world. We are deploying the sensors to meet the preferences of our scientific partners as well as to reach a global distribution of dive centers. Any diver can join as an individual. All you need to do is sign-up on our website and request a sensor.
Your father made a huge impact on how we view the ocean. What are some of the ways your project compares to his initiatives and how has ocean conservation evolved since your father’s time?
When I founded Cousteau Divers 10 years ago, I wanted to leverage the global community of divers to help study and protect the ocean. My father [Jacques Cousteau] made invaluable contributions to ocean exploration and awareness, and I hope this project continues in his footsteps to better understand and conserve marine life.
All of the environmental problems we face today were flagged in my father’s days. They’ve only gotten worse since then. Thankfully now we have technologies that can help us address these global issues.
Sustainability is at the heart of our business at IWC. Learn more about our practices and partnerships here.
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