By Chris MeehanThe UK government is investing more than £10 million ($16 million) to support a project to explore underwater habitats, with scientists from Britain’s University of Exeter using a device that allows them to map the planet in the deep ocean.
The Deepwater Horizon Oil and Gas (DHI) drilling rig sank off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of the April 2010 Deepwater Wind disaster, killing 11 people and leaving nearly 7,000 people displaced.
The project, dubbed Deepsea Marine Life, aims to use the device to map an area of the ocean’s deep crust, which is the layer beneath the water that contains life.
Researchers from the U.K.’s University of Oxford and the UCL Institute of Oceanography have developed the device, which has been developed by the Oxford-based Department of Marine Science.
It uses an underwater camera to capture images of the seafloor in the shallow waters, and uses the data to build an “acoustic model” of the planet’s surface.
The device also uses the underwater data to determine where organisms are located, and how they may interact with one another.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is funding the project with the UAE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as a U.A.E. (UAE) Department of Scientific Research.
The team plans to use it to study marine life that can survive the rig’s impact, which the drilling rig is designed to destroy.
The underwater images will help researchers figure out what species live in areas that have been exposed to the rig, and the extent of damage it caused.
In a statement, DOE said that the research will help the country determine how to protect coastal areas from oil and gas exploration.
“We are confident the Deepwater Marine Life project will be a valuable contribution to our understanding of how marine life can adapt to the effects of the rig,” DOE said.
Researchers will use the devices to monitor fish and invertebrates, and study marine habitats such as coral reefs and seabeds.
“By mapping the world in deep water, we will be able to gain a better understanding of the marine environments we live in,” DOE added.