Seals, Dolphins and Sea Turtles - A Week in Valencia, Spain
On January 27 2018, NESL students Eun Sun Lee, Leon Kozinakov and Bharathan Balaji embarked on a week-long workshop in the City of Arts and Sciences. The name refers to a cultural and architectural complex in Valencia which includes an opera house, a planetarium, and Oceanografico, a large aquarium home to nearly 50,000 marine animals. The workshop was organized by the CAASE initiative from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), and had participants from Swansea University, MIT, the Australian Institue of Marine Science, and of course UCLA. Eun Sun and Leon brought their AquaMote tags to the conference in order to do testing on real animals as they swim through the water. The AquaMote tag is a type of tracking device capable of working underwater and is primarily based on dead-reckoning from inertial sensors. It was designed and built from the ground up by engineers at NESL. The tags were tested on various animals starting with sea turtles swimming in small isolated tanks, then sea turtles in a much larger tank where they could interact with seals, and finally on dolphins that were trained to swim in specific patterns by their trainers.
In parallel to the testing of AquaMote tags, Bharathan was doing testing of Magnadome, a magnetic localisation system designed with off-the-shelf components. Magnadome started off as a project by Zhengxu Xia, another NESL member, and was used to track movement of crabs in a small controlled environment. Overall the workshop was a success, and the UCLA team collected invaluable data which will be used to improve the tracking system in the future.