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USF launches a remotely operated vehicle for deep-sea exploration

Taurus, the ROV, can reach depths of up to 2.5 miles.
Cliff McBride
/
USF
Taurus, the ROV, can reach depths of up to 2.5 miles.

More than 80% of the ocean remains unexplored by humans.

With the help of a new remotely operated vehicle (ROV), researchers at the University of South Florida and Florida Institute of Oceanography hope to lower that percentage.

Taurus will be able to sink down to depths of up to 2.5 miles while capturing 4k imagery.

According to a news release, USF is the only university in the continental U.S. to operate a vehicle with these capabilities.

Monty Graham, the director of FIO, said this ROV will bring new exploration possibilities for USF, FIO and researchers in Florida.

“By having an ROV, all of a sudden, a whole new market of exploration now has opened up for USF, for FIO, for the state of Florida and for the nation for that matter,” Graham said. “This is an asset that will be of national significance because there just aren’t that many of them out there.”

Taurus will be housed on the Western Flyer ship, which was granted to USF and FIO last year. The Western Flyer, which will transport and store the ROV, is what inspired the program, Graham said.

“It was really perfect because ROV’s are just extensions of our bodies and our eyeballs and our arms and hands,” Graham said. “So we can do things in the sea with an ROV that is just captivating for people because it’s an extension of it.”

A focus on sharks and coral

The ROV will embark on its first mission in late July, focusing on two projects: deep-sea sharks and coral communities.

Graham said the ROV will offer the opportunity to take tissue samples from deep-water sharks that cannot be reached in shallow waters and help restore and repair coral communities.

“After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, we see that some of our deep ocean communities, especially deep water corals, were really affected by the oil spill,” Graham said. “There’s a large effort to do restoration of deep water corals, just like we were doing coral restoration in our shallow reef building corals.”

Peerside focuses on STEAM: science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. Students in the program learn about careers in ocean science and have the opportunity to complete a one-week expedition on the Western Flyer.

On its first mission, the ROV will be used by FIO’s Peerside program, a year-round career development program.

A preview of video and images that Taurus can capture from the sea floor.
Cliff McBride
/
USF
A preview of video and images that Taurus can capture from the sea floor.

Taurus provides a learning experience for students

Graham said the program aims to develop a full set of skills for young scientists.

“To be able to develop a workforce around the sciences, part of oceanography and the technology and engineering part, we have to train people also in how do they communicate and tell the stories about the science that is important to people,” Graham said. “You do that through the arts and the humanities. We want scientists to have the full repertoire of skills to be able to communicate science.”

Graham said the Peerside program is very inclusive in the sense that anybody is welcome to apply.

“Everybody is invited to this and we’re trying to get ways to connect different communities of people to ocean sciences and do things that are relevant to the communities,” Graham said.

In the long run, Graham said he hopes they will be able to use the ROV to discover shipwrecks.

“There’s a large push to identify culturally significant wrecks and then protect them in the deep ocean,” Graham said. “First, you have to know where they are and what condition they’re in, and you really can only do that by close-up investigation with the ROVs.”

Viewers will have the option of watching the dive while it is being live-streamed or watching the posted dive video on FIO’s YouTube channel.

The Peerside program allows students to take an expedition on the Western Flyer and have hands-on experience with the ROV.
Cliff McBride
/
USF
The Peerside program allows students to take an expedition on the Western Flyer and have hands-on experience with the ROV.

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Savannah Rude