From Starfleet to the world's oceans

From Starfleet to the world's oceans

A real-life version of a medical scanner used in Star Trek could help in the fight against climate change, according to scientists.

A real-life version of a medical scanner used in Star Trek could help in the fight against climate change, according to scientists.

The Blue Climate Initiative, a global collaborative which strives to enable innovation and research to build a sustainable planet, recently published a major report on the future of the oceans and how important they are in mitigating climate change.

Professor Marcel Jaspars, from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Natural and Computing Sciences, was part of a team which looked specifically at the potential damage that will be caused by deep sea mining and the huge value to humans of marine biotechnology.

The report made a range of proposals on how to better explore the oceans in a bid to discover all species that exist, and their value to the planet.

One of the proposals the team came up with is to build an ‘ocean tricorder’ – similar to the prop used in Star Trek. The Tricorder has three functions; performing sensor environment scans, data recording, and data analysis

Professor Jaspars said: “The ocean moderates climate, taking up CO2, and storing some of it for tens of thousands of years; it acts as a heat sink and generates half of all the oxygen in the atmosphere. Without a healthy and biodiverse ocean, runaway climate change is likely, and thus preserving it should be foremost in any plan to mitigate climate change. Preserving biodiversity is essential and should include all life-forms, from microbial up to charismatic megafauna, but in order to preserve this, we first need to know what all is there to be preserved!

 “An “Ocean Tricorder” - like the science-fiction tricorder of the Star Trek universe that can quickly assess properties of interest in real-time – would allow us to record all lifeforms in a specific part of an ocean at the push of a button.

“The device would provide a step-change in the speed and scope of marine science by decreasing reliance on collecting and transporting samples for later sequencing and analysis. It would also allow us to increase our understanding of how the vast biological diversity correlates with the ecosystem function.

“It’s not only the science community who would benefit from an Ocean Tricorder – it also has the potential to motivate new technologies that would be highly valuable for resource managers and offshore industries.

“The technology already exists in part; it just needs to be developed further and could really help answer a lot of questions about the species we know are in the ocean and those that we haven’t discovered yet.”

The Blue Climate Initiative is funded by the Tetiaroa Society: