Scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark are using a high-tech autonomous underwater vehicle to better understand the distribution of ice algae, which plays an important ecological role. In places like Antarctica, layers of algae form on the underside of sea ice and serve as an important food source for plankton, kickstarting the bottom of the food chain.
The autonomous underwater vehicle is dubbed 'Gavia' and is manufactured by Icelandic firm Teledyne Gavia. The torpedo-shaped vehicle can autonomously travel through preset underwater routes and measure the amount of sunlight shining through the underside of ice. This information helps scientists figure out where algae colonies are likely present.
The accuracy of these readings are checked periodically by comparing ice core samples to predicted amounts
The vehicle has allowed for the mapping of ice algae distributions over very large areas.