Can a Raspberry Pi Help Protect Coral Reefs?

We’ve seen the Raspberry employed in countless unique ways since the little computer arrived, but did you ever imagine that it could help to save marine life?

That’s certainly the aim of the Nemo-Pi project, which has entered - and won - Google’s Impact Challenge initiative. Overseen by non-profit environmental and animal protection foundation Save.Nemo, Nemo-Pi is an underwater weather station, designed to observe undersea conditions. Information collected will then be used to monitor the effects of climate change on coral reefs around the globe.

“This award is an incentive for us to continue our chosen path with even more passion and energy,” said Diemo Niemann, CEO of the Foundation, following the awards ceremony, and the team have every reason to be pleased.

Save.Nemo’s work with reefs is two-fold. First of all, they’ve installed concrete blocks as mooring points for boats and divers next to coral reefs. By maintaining a safe distance from the reefs, the blocks protect the coral from anchor damage. The second part of their work is the Nemo-Pi device, a Raspberry Pi coupled with a solar panel, GPS device, a bunch of sensors, and a buoy. When activated, the Pi can measure conditions in the water around the coral reef, such as temperature, visibility, concentration of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide, and pH levels.

Readings from the sensors are then uploaded to a public server and analysed. Meanwhile, divers can use the information to check if conditions are suitable for a trip out.

Nemo-Pi has been undergoing tests off the coast of Thailand and Indonesia, with prototypes employing the Raspberry Pi Zero W. Once the project is complete, Save.Nemo plans to install a network of Nemo-Pi boxes around coral reefs (up to a depth of 60m), providing data to diving companies, while providing further stats to environmentalists and scientists investigating the phenomenon of coral bleaching, and other damaging effects of climate change on sea life.

Perhaps most importantly, the Save.Nemo team is looking for volunteer programmers for the Pi Zero. If you’re interested, drop a line to nemopi@save-nemo.org.


Christian Cawley

Christian Cawley spends a lot of time with Raspberry Pis and scours the web looking for interesting DIY electronics projects and news for ElectroMaker. He's currently trying to show his 7 year old son how to get to grips with Scratch, but so far to no avail.


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