Deep benthic environments: an endless (but stimulating) challenge for marine robotics


In the past 50 years, marine robotics had a huge impact on marine sciences, providing countless support tools for a better understanding of the benthic environments. The endless need for a higher level of resolution in our maps, the application of specific protocols for monitoring programs, measuring the different components of the water column, and collecting the smallest or most delicate biological samples have pushed the technology always over its limits. Finally, the introduction of AI in acoustic and underwater video technologies is bringing now the analyses to a higher level of detail. In Saudi Arabia, the upcoming ecosystem-based management initiatives, coastal development, and the aim for a sustainable use of marine resources will likely increase the number of applications for underwater vehicles, both autonomous and remotely controlled. In particular, the increasing exploration of extreme environments, such as deep water benthic ecosystems, with multiscale and multiresolution approaches and the use of specific cutting-edge technologies such as ROVs, AUVs, submersibles, and deep-towed vehicles able to collect data from the sample to the map, renders the need for robotics an indispensable tool to fill gaps of knowledge otherwise not approachable.



Dr. Marchese is a marine geomorphologist specialized in seafloor and habitat mapping techniques, his research interest focuses on study how the geomorphic processes create the present seafloor morphologies, how to detect and characterize them through maps, models, and augmented reality.

Before joining KAUST he completed his Ph.D. in Earth Sciences at the University of Milano-Bicocca (Italy) and in collaboration with the Italian National Inter-University Consortium for Marine Sciences (CoNISMa). Dr. Marchese has worked in interdisciplinary research on deep-sea ecosystems (cold-water corals), and coastal research (coralligenous bioconstructions), up to the study of tropical coral reef habitats. He uses different quantitative techniques to analyze datasets coming from geophysical acoustic sensors (Multibeam, Side Scan Sonar, and Sub-Bottom Profiler), photogrammetry by Structure from Motion techniques (scuba diving, snorkeling, ROV, and drones), and hyperspectral underwater cameras.