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Snapshot of the Arctic

New Canada Research Chair in Ocean Technology



By Michelle Osmond

Dr. Ralf Bachmayer wants to give scientists betters tools to understand what’s under the Arctic ice. The effects of melting icecaps on the world’s climate and dwindling natural resources are leading researchers to further explore what’s happening in the Arctic.

However, because of ice cover, most areas are only accessible for a very limited time each year and only with considerable cost and effort. Ships and ship based observational tools, which can be challenging to deploy in these extreme conditions, are subject to weather delays and even cancellations.

Dr. Bachmayer, who has just been appointed Memorial’s Canada Research Chair in Ocean Technology, believes that autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) offer an opportunity for unattended operations in these harsh conditions.

“My vision is to enable sustainable AUV operations in the Arctic for ocean monitoring and sampling of the ocean floor without human interference for weeks or even months at a time,” said Dr. Bachmayer. “This will give us invaluable access and new insights into this otherwise inaccessible environment.”

However, the current AUVs are not capable of such a vision. They have to be able to reliably navigate, hover, hold their position and make contact with the ocean floor. Dr. Bachmayer believes that miniaturization of sensors and improved sampling technologies together with advances in energy storage and underwater navigation will help to solve the major constraints of AUVs.

Over the next five to 10 years Dr. Bachmayer, who is working with the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science as well as the Marine Institute’s School of Ocean Technology, will develop the capabilities to operate autonomous underwater vehicles for extended periods of time over large distances. This will involve the AUVs sampling the environment and making real-time decisions without surfacing or the need for human operator input.

Dr. Bachmayer wants to help Canadian researchers, institutions, and industry explore areas that are of growing interest because of their economic potential, their relevance to Canada’s security and their impact on our climate. The results will be a snapshot of the state of the Arctic with global significance.

The Government of Canada recently announced an investment of $120.4 million to fund 134 new or renewed Canada Research Chairs in 37 Canadian universities.

Memorial is home to 25 Canada Research Chairs. They are studying nutrition, archaeology, boreal and cold ocean systems, healthy aging, environmental science and traditional music, among other areas. The Canada Research Chairs Program offers Memorial an opportunity to strengthen its research culture, infrastructure and reputation by retaining outstanding researchers and recruiting new faculty members with exceptional research expertise. For more information on Memorial’s Canada Research Chairs, visit www.mun.ca/research.

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