The Italian Almanac


Italian Science - July 1

Pisa University is teaming up with NATO's Undersea Research Centre (NURC) for a new study to promote the conservation of marine life. The project seeks to put 'eyes' and 'ears' under the sea near to the beautiful Mediterranean island of Pianosa to see how human activity is affecting the natural world.

The Pisa University-NURC scientists said the 'eyes' part of the project regards the collection of data, including photographic and video evidence, on marine vegetation. "It is important to assess the state of plant life and coral colonies as it helps us to understand the future impact of climate change," explained Professor Francesco Cinelli of Pisa University's Biology Department.

The 'ears' are the underwater sensors that will register levels of sub-aqua noise pollution caused by ships and sonar equipment and the effects this has on the sounds produced by whales and dolphins. "Cetaceans communicate using sonar. So the noise mankind makes with boat and ship propellers and high-frequency sound systems can disturb their communications with very harmful consequences," Cinelli said.

The collaboration between the institutions makes it possible for the Pisa University experts to have access to NURC's ship, the Leonardo, and all of the high-tech marine research equipment on board. The project also highlights how NATO is a multi-faceted organization, not just the military alliance the general public tends to perceive it as, organizers say.

The data-collection phase of the project winds up next month, after which the Pisa University-NURC team will elaborate the results and present them to the international scientific community.