Environment The robot helping us learn love larvae

The robot helping us learn love larvae

The name is a definite turn-off but LarvalBot might just save one of the world’s great natural wonders.

Developed at Southern Cross University, the Bot is helping to repopulate struggling sections of the Great Barrier Reef with baby coral.

While it sounds like a high-tech, larvae-spewing cyborg from science fiction, Larvalbot is actually a friendly environmental warrior fighting to restore the world’s largest coral reef system.

The Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral cover in the past 30 years due to pollution, pests and climate change according to WWF.

Larvalbot’s co-inventor Peter Harrison says it works like an underwater crop duster, gently dispersing specially reared, microscopic baby coral or coral larvae in conjunction with natural spawning events.

“With further research and refinement, this technique has enormous potential to operate across large areas of reef and multiple sites in a way that hasn’t previously been possible,” Professor Harrison says.

“We’ll be closely monitoring the progress of settled baby corals over coming months and working to refine both the technology and the technique to scale up further in 2019.”

Larvalbot is controlled from the surface with an iPad, allowing precise targeting in areas where fresh larvae are needed to develop new colonies.

Currently, it is able to carry around 100,000 larvae per mission but with potential to scale up to 1 million, LarvalBot could prove a decisive weapon in the battle to save damaged reefs the world over.