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Researchers say Star Trek device could help fight against climate change

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A real-life version of a high-tech device used in Star Trek could help the fight against climate change, according to a team of north-east researchers.

The Blue Climate Initiative, a global collaborative which includes scientists from Aberdeen University, has published a report on the future of oceans and how important they are to combatting global warming.

It examined the potential damage which could be caused by deep-sea mining and the value of marine biotechnology.

The report also included a series of proposals on how to better explore the oceans to uncover new species and their value to the planet.


One of those was to build an “ocean tricorder”, similar to a prop used in the film franchise Star Trek.

A tricorder – used as a medical scanner in the films – has three functions – performing data sensor environment scans, data recording and data analysis.

© Paul Grover/Shutterstock
A Tricorder from Star Trek.

Marcel Jaspars, a professor from Aberdeen University who took part in the project, said the device “would allow us to record all lifeforms in a specific part of an ocean at the push of a button”.

“The ocean moderates climate, taking up CO2, and storing some of it for tens of thousands of years; it acts as a heat sink and generates half of all the oxygen in the atmosphere, ” he said.

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“Without a healthy and biodiverse ocean, runaway climate change is likely, and thus preserving it should be foremost in any plan to mitigate climate change.

“Preserving biodiversity is essential and should include all life-forms, from microbial up to charismatic megafauna, but in order to preserve this, we first need to know what all is there to be preserved.”

Of the Star Trek-inspired tricorder, Prof Jaspars added: “The device would provide a step-change in the speed and scope of marine science by decreasing reliance on collecting and transporting samples for later sequencing and analysis.

“It would also allow us to increase our understanding of how the vast biological diversity correlates with the ecosystem function.

“It’s not only the science community who would benefit from an Ocean Tricorder – it also has the potential to motivate new technologies that would be highly valuable for resource managers and offshore industries.

“The technology already exists in part; it just needs to be developed further and could really help answer a lot of questions about the species we know are in the ocean and those that we haven’t discovered yet.”

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