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ROVs by Chris, Cory, Nikki and Bruce

We want to get to the bottom of things. Especially the ocean! We built an ROV, which stands for Remotely Operated Vehicle. We control it from above and it goes way down into the ocean. When we heard that some of the Florida Keys' coral was diseased, damaged and beginning to die, we wanted to learn more. What can our ROV tell us about the health of a coral reef?

What did we do?
After checking some maps at a marine lab, we chose two reefs to explore with our ROV. White Banks Reef gets a lot of human traffic and Dino's Rock is pretty deserted. We marked four different spots every five meters. We used the ROV to check out the reef's health at each marked spot. We recorded any disease or damage. We looked at the ROV's videotape and gave each spot a rating from 1-5 on how healthy it seemed. (One meant unhealthy, and five meant healthy.) Then, we recorded our data in a bar graph.

What did we find out?
We gave White Banks a score of two, meaning not too healthy. We saw diseased and broken coral. Dino's Rock was healthier, with a rating of three. It definitely had fewer broken and diseased spots. We increased its score to four, because it was home to a wide variety of fish. We noticed some other differences between the reefs. We saw more fan coral on Dino's Rock, while White Banks had lots of brain coral. The water also seemed choppier at Dino's Rock. Overall, we learned that the "busier" coral reef is less healthy than the unused reef. We don't know if human pollution causes the damage or if other factors like differing coral species or water currents are to blame. We'll come back next year and visit these reefs again, maybe they change with time!

What can you do?
  • What's it like to live under the sea? Pretend you are a sea creature and write a story about traveling through the oceans and how different ocean properties affect your life. If you are used to cool water, how are you affected when you travel to tropical waters? How is your life different at a coral reef compared to a kelp forest? Learn about ocean properties at the Department of the Navy's Science and Technology Focus Web site.
  • Although coral looks like rock, it's actually a tiny animal that lives in colonies and produces limestone. You can check it out for yourself at some fish stores. Find another animal that looks like an object but is really a living, breathing creature. Has your animal always looked like this, or has it adapted to its environment? If so, why?
  • Create your own ROV like the DFTV scientists did! Figuring out, designing and building a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) takes a lot of trial, error and patience. For the first steps and advice, visit the ROV's for Beginners Web site. You can enter your ROV into design contests or science fairs.
  • Use this technology investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
more resources
More on Jacques Cousteau: Underwater Explorer

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