National Geographic : 2017 Dec
“ We’re trying to empower citizen scien- tists to take a larger role in protecting their oceans,” says National Geographic Emerging Explorer David Lang. To do that, he’s offering people a powerful tool: robots. Lang is the co-founder of OpenROV, which promotes deep-sea discovery us- ing remotely operated vehicles. Over the course of the next year, the company will support citizen scientists, conservation organizations, and classrooms and sup- ply drones for certain projects. Each drone will be assigned a specif- ic mission, from monitoring changes in marine species off the coast of Cal- ifornia to scanning the Mediterranean Sea for shipwrecks and other signs of ancient life. HIS ROBOTS RAISE AWARENESS David Lang Once deployed, the underwater ro- bots will allow people to explore the seas from dry land—and gain a deeper understanding of what needs to be pro- tected, and why. PHOTOS, FROM TOP: PATRICK WEBSTER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE; MATTHEW WARE David Lang hopes his drones, like this one in Monterey, California, will help land dwellers better understand the ocean. Hoisting hundred-plus-pound sea tur- tles up from the water and onto a boat is no easy task. But that’s what marine conservation biologist Mariana Fuentes does to help save the endangered reptiles. Sea turtles live in warm waters across the globe. Fuentes’s current focus is the Bahamas, whose government has pledged to set aside 20 percent of its marine environment as a protected area. Turtles weren’t Fuentes’s first love. “At first I wanted to work with manta rays,” she says, recalling a close encounter she had with one that had mistaken her for food. Then, while interning in Brazil—her native country—Fuentes became drawn to sea turtles, which can live for a century. “The fact that they are survivors,” she says, “made me want to conserve them.” ON THE TURTLE TRAIL Mariana Fuentes After gently catching a sea turtle, Mariana Fuentes takes samples, then tags and releases it. Tagging allows her to map habitat and distribution.