To provide an improved ‘visual’ system with multi-sensory input for divers working in conditions of impaired optical clarity and low ambient light levels.

1. BioSONAR Systems (Click link for more information)
This project explores the contribution of higher sensory processing in underwater target discrimination and classification using bio-mimetic echolocation signals. By providing human subjects with the ability to use a dolphin-like SONAR system, we hope to learn more about the ability of human subjects to detect and classify objects underwater. The system enables us to send and hear ultrasonic acoustic signals in pseudo-real time and use our central nervous system to interpret the sound echoes and classify targets. Subjective feedback might also provide useful insights to refine man-made SONAR systems.

Bubble Acoustics - The ability to detect targets in bubbly water is a sub-component of this project. Micro-bubbles occur at the surface of the sea (especially in the surf zone) and persist for relatively long periods of time. These bubbles scatter sound strongly and hinder the operation of man-made SONAR systems by creating unwanted system noise. However, some marine mammals can echolocate effectively while foraging in the surf zone and others deliberately create bubble clouds to contain schools of fish. By using similar echolocation signals, we hope to learn more about this and apply the findings improve the efficiency of human SONAR systems.

2. Optical Systems (Click link for more information)
The human eye evolved to see in air and underwater we are often effectively blind. Even if we maintain an air/water interface at the surface of the eye by wearing a dive mask, the wavelengths of light are sub-optimal and, in contrast to sound, light doesn’t travel far underwater and particles suspended in the water column make matters worse. We hope to learn from visual strategies used by marine mammals and explore new techniques such as fluorescence to improve human vision underwater.By studying underwater fluorescence we might also learn more about the biochemistry of organisms that create this amazing light.