Inner-space Mission to the Bottom of the Ocean


Swell Shark
Swell Shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum (image by David Gruber)

An extraordinary expedition was announced recently at the Museum of Natural History in NYC.  At the center of it all is the newly designed Exosuit, a robotic dream created by Nuytco Research, the latest generation of atmospheric diving systems which protects the pilot  from the effects of high pressure.  The Exosuit will work together with a unique remotely operated vehicle (ROV), a recently developed system designed with the support of the National Science Foundation, with specialized cameras that hope to capture images and video of bioluminescent and biofluorescent life forms in the very dark and deep ocean.  

exo and rov
Exosuit and ROV on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York (image by David Gruber)

The first expedition will focus specifically on the discovery of bioluminescent fishes and invertebrates. In order to study the behavior of these organisms, the team will combine the Exosuit and the DeepReef-ROV.  David Gruber, John Sparks and Vicent Pierebone are the team responsible for the design and development of this state of the art ROV which has been outfitted with high-resolution cameras which will allow the researchers to image life in extremely low-light at the bottom of the ocean.

Bioluminescense took center stage at the monthly Science Cafe held at the American Museum of Natural History NYC (image by Fabio Esteban Amador).
Bioluminescense took center stage at the monthly Science Cafe held at the American Museum of Natural History NYC (image by Fabio Esteban Amador).

It is the combination of the Exosuit and the ROV that puts this mission on the scientific and technological frontier. It truly is the ultimate interaction between man and robot placed in a very dark and deep inner-space. Although many future missions and applications are already part of our dreams, the present task is likely to help the researchers make remarkable achievements in capturing and identifying many new species, witnessing how they communicate love and war,  as well as to understand the nature of bioluminescence and  its future applications in medicine and brain research.

Michael Lombardi, John Sparks, David Gruber and Vincent Pieribone (image by Fabio Esteban Amador
Michael Lombardi, John Sparks, David Gruber and Vincent Pieribone (image by Fabio Esteban Amador)

The Dream Team

Michael Lombardi: the Exosuit pilot, will be wearing the Exosuit and will dropped in the ocean at a location one hundred miles of the coast of Rhode Island known as the canyon, where depths reach over ten thousand feet.

David Gruber: Marine Biologist and Associate Professor at Baruch College in New York City and Associate Researcher at the American Museum of Natural History.

 John Sparks: Curator-in-Charge, Department of Ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History.

Vincent Pieribone: Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology and of Neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine and Chief Scientist for the Stephen J. Barlow Bluewater Expedition.

Biofluorescent stingray (Urobatis jamaicensis)
Biofluorescent stingray (Urobatis jamaicensis). Image provided by David Gruber.

The team is a perfect example of how collaborative efforts in scientific research are leading the way to the future. The use of the Exosuit and the ROV hope to provide new ways for scientists to observe, image, and collect marine life in areas that are dangerous and difficult to explore.  The future is here and the ocean is the new frontier in exploration.  We look forward to the expedition and to the discovery of a new world.

Biofluorescent seahorse (image by David Gruber).


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Meet the Author
Fabio Esteban Amador is an archaeologist, science communicator and visual artist. He uses visualization tools to get people excited about seeing, understanding and preserving their world and history. He is currently using gigapan technology, underwater imaging systems and aerial photography and video to capture art and culture around the world. Lately he has focused in the development of a new concept, strategy and workshop called the Art of Communicating Science, aimed at using creativity and visual technologies in exploration, discovery and story telling. He started his career as an art student at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and followed his interests in becoming an expedition artist by graduating as an archaeologist from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Lately, he has focused on the archaeology and exploration of caverns in Quintana Roo, Mexico, photo-mosaicking shipwrecks in Latin America and the Caribbean and capturing images and video from aerial platforms to document archaeological sites to create digital elevation models. Amador’s continued effort in communicating science has allowed him to use photography, cinematography and other multi-media tools to reach large audiences through his public lectures at universities, presentations at international scientific and professional symposia, publications in scholarly journals and on National Geographic’s Explorers Journal and NatGeo News Watch online blogs. Currently, he is a senior program officer for the National Geographic Society / Waitt Grants Program, promoting and coordinating scientific and exploratory research around the world. He is also an associate research professor at George Washington University and Executive Director and President of Fundacion OLAS, an organization devoted to capacity building for Latin American scholars dedicated to the study and preservation of the submerged cultural heritage.