SCUBA diving for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week will kill you. So, no. There’s a better way, and it’s called BRUV.
BRUV – or Baited Remote Underwater Video – is one of the most cost-effective methods for studying the oceans.
Simply put, the technique involves submerging cameras attached to bait underwater. This way, scientists record ecosystems like coral reefs, seagrass beds, or even the open ocean without needing to spend a fortune on diving or boating.
Depending on the study, the duration of BRUV recordings can vary greatly – from 1 hour a day to study species richness in California beaches, to 24-hour recordings for tracking sharks in the Mediterranean Sea, for example.
Nonetheless, the principle of most BRUV studies remains the same. They allow long-term surveillance of marine wildlife through the comfort of laptop screens – think “work from home”, but for marine biologists.
BRUV is incredible, and not just for saving money.
- Using stationary remote cameras avoids the bias created by the presence of divers in the water, which has been known to affect animal behavior. This bias is especially prevalent in areas with high spear-fishing pressure, as fishes in these regions may actively avoid divers.
- BRUVs can observe inaccessible areas, for longer periods than if divers are involved.
- Cameras make data collection for scientists safer, as they would otherwise have to expose themselves to challenging conditions at sea more frequently.
Do note, however, that BRUVs are not perfect.
- They are usually used in places with clear waters, or murky sediment that would blur videos.
- The bait in BRUVs can attract more predators, which in turn can repel other species.
- Relatively immobile animals like oysters, anemones, and tubeworms are typically not studied through BRUV systems because stationary cameras require animals to actively swim into their viewsheds to be observed – though there are a few exceptions.