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27.09.2005 Business & Finance

Oil companies help marine biologists in exploration

By GNA
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Accra, Sept. 27, GNA - An idea from Dr Ian Hudson, a young British marine biologist at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, is revolutionising oceanography in the deep oceans. He has been getting the oil industry to sign up to a project that has captured the imagination of companies and oceanographers across the world.

Animals in the deep oceans are now being filmed using robotic vehicles and cameras operated by oil companies.

As they seek out new oil reserves on the deep-sea floor or carry out maintenance work, these companies are teaming up with scientists to capture shots of animals never seen before and discover new science, according to a statement from the British High Commission in Accra. The statement said this global collaboration is called the SERPENT Project - Scientific and Environmental Rov Partnership using Existing Industrial Technology.

"The results have been incredible, far beyond our original expectations," said Dr Hudson.

"We have seen new species, found animals in areas where they were believed not to be present, but most importantly we have been able to observe their behaviour in their natural habitats.

There are more than 400 oilrigs worldwide - all with the potential to help science to explore the oceans. We are working with companies that represent over 200 of them."

Dr Hudson explains: "The SERPENT project has given scientists around the world a privileged view of science in the deep. And it's not just the scientists working on the rigs.

"When we find something unusual we can e-mail footage to specialists around the world for their advice and expertise. The other great advantage of SERPENT is that we get to see animals behaving in their own habitats and we have documented their behavioural traits at depths from 100 to over 3000 metres."

Dr Hudson said working with Woodside, Australia's largest oil producer, off the coast of Western Australia, they have filmed frogfish -deep-sea anglerfish that walk instead of swim.

"It would have been very difficult to discover this fact from capturing them in a net!"

Dr Hudson said the project was not only changing the way the industry thought about oceanography but also the way science itself was conducted.

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