SURF SCIENCE: Dr Renaud Joannes-Boyau will introduce audiences to the Smartfin at the Byron Bay Surf Festival.
SURF SCIENCE: Dr Renaud Joannes-Boyau will introduce audiences to the Smartfin at the Byron Bay Surf Festival. Marc Stapelberg

Surfing scientists uncover mysteries of the ocean

A NEW wave of surfing, citizen scientists will be taking to the water soon on boards equipped with high tech fins to help scientists tackle climate change.

The new Smartfins are fully loaded with oceanographic sensors - simply clip it on, go for a surf and at the end of your session plug the fin into your iPhone, and the data gets sent to the cloud for researchers to access.

Surfer and Southern Cross University researcher Dr Renaud Joannes-Boyau will preview the Smartfin at the Byron Bay Surf Festival this weekend.

"The entire surf session experience is going to become more valuable, with surfers sharing the data they capture with scientists interested in the health of coastal zones,” Dr Joannes-Boyau said.

"Our oceans face some of the biggest threats related to climate change but there is a scarcity of data.

"Hopefully surfers can help fill these gaps in near shore seawater chemistry measurements relating to these highly dynamic coastal zones.”

The Smartfin contains a temperature sensor, a GPS, a circuit board with a micro-controller, a Bluetooth chip, and a rechargeable battery.

The next generation of Smartfin will include added sensors for pH, chlorophyll, salinity, and oxygen.

The ocean monitoring device was designed by engineer Phil Bresnahan and coastal bio-geochemist Dr Tyler Cyronak, both of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (University of San Diego) in collaboration with Lost Bird Project and Surfrider.

Dr Cyronak was originally at SCU as a student and researcher before moving to the US.

"The current version of Smartfin measures motion, GPS location, and seawater temperature, all while surfers are doing what they love,” Dr Joannes-Boyau said.

A Smartfin pilot started last year in the US.



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