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Posted: Aug 30, 2016

A robot to zap 'Darwin's nightmare', the invasive lionfish (w/video)

(Nanowerk News) Lionfish have terrorized Atlantic waters, their ferocious appetites upsetting the balance of reef ecosystems. Such was the case near the Bahamas between 2003 and 2009, where lionfish overconsumed juvenile parrotfish and other young plant eaters. The result: Algae bloomed with abandon, choking the reef ecosystems at a 150- to 200-foot depth. Coral coverage shrank by as much as 88 percent in places; sponge coverage by 96 percent.
Two species of lionfish — Pterois volitans and Pterois miles — now threaten reef ecosystems across the Western Atlantic and the Caribbean.
But a solution may be on the way, in the form of a robot.
Harvester Prototype Lionfish Hunter
This 3D rendering of a lionfish harvester robot being developed by Robots in Service of the Environment (RISE). The prototype would use a robot arm with two metal electrodes on the end to electrocute invasive lionfish. The stunned fish would then be collected in a central chamber for use as food. (Photo by Ed Williams, Robo Nautica)
In a way, the lionfish terminator — not the robot’s official name — is cousin to a vacuum cleaner.
The idea surfaced in the fall of 2015, when Colin Angle, the CEO for iRobot and the maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum, paid a visit to friends on Bermuda. During the visit, Angle and his wife, biochemist Erika Ebbel joined a group of locals and sailed offshore for a dive. With them was Chris Flook, who had a long relationship with lionfish.
After the trip concluded, the Angles laid the foundation for Robots in Service of the Environment (RISE).
The independent, nonprofit company has recruited a league of engineers and scientists — all volunteers — to establish a skynet for lionfish. Gardner, for instance, is coordinating the robot testing. Meanwhile, Ed Williams, an ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) designer at Robo Nautica in California, is pitching in weekends to engineer prototypes.
Read the full story here on PBS.
Source: University of Sheffield
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