U.S. aids MSU to build robofish
East Lansing — Michigan State University is using a $1 million federal grant to build a better robofish that can observe the feeding and migration habits of trout, walleye, sturgeon and other Great Lakes aquatic species.
The university said the robots will advance the technology from earlier versions, including monitors that can track fish equipped with acoustical transmitters.
“Think about the GPS in your smartphone, which tracks your movement,” associate professor Xiaobo Tan, the project’s leader, said in a statement. “Basically the robots will form an equivalent of a GPS satellite network underwater, to localize and follow tagged fish in their vicinity.”
At present, researchers “use predominantly stationary receivers for detecting tagged fish, which are limited in both precision and tracking range,” said Tan. “For example, they can only be deployed close to shore and if the fish they are following swims out into the open lake, it can be very hard to track.”
The robot is called Grace, short for Gliding Robot Ace. Michigan State is collaborating with the U.S. Geological Survey, with National Science Foundation financing.
Earlier versions of the robot have measured water quality and temperature in lakes and rivers. The university said the new version has greater mobility and energy efficiency and will cost far less than the $300,000 each of the previous model.
“The ultimate goal is to track the movements of the fish … to identify important habitats, understand why they move from one place to another, and how they are being affected by invasive species such as sea lampreys,” said Michigan State spokesman Tom Oswald.
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