Seabed robots are enhancing Aberdeen University's reputation as a leader in marine research.
Aberdeen has opened a Pounds 1.4 million deep ocean research laboratory, part of a Pounds 2.6 million European project that also involves France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands and Greece.
The research, initiated by the European Union marine science and technology programme, will be carried out through robot vehicles, known as Landers, that descend to 6,000 metres. They can gather data for a day to a year or more, and are programmed to surface as required.
Aberdeen has six Landers, the largest fleet in Europe, and will now be working with other scientists on developing two new types.
The first will be a compact Lander which does not need to be launched from a large oceanographic vessel and is able to carry out one or two experiments. The second will be a large vehicle, able to carry out around six experiments, probing sediment on the seabed, investigating water samples, and monitoring deep sea life.
Monty Priede, reader in zoology and project coordinator, said it was developing interdisciplinary work between zoology and engineering. "Students in zoology will have access to the most sophisticated equipment in the world to carry out their research, while engineers will gain experience of applying their technology in a most exciting and challenging environment," he said.
"Although the ocean can be considered the ultimate dump for the earth's wastes, photographs show that the sea floor is covered with a very clean, fine sediment. The numerous animals who live in the abyss are continuously feeding on, recycling and cleaning up the sea floor. A dead fish is typically found within 30 minutes and consumed within 12 hours by scavengers."