Scientists developing a robot to repair coral reefs around the world have turned to crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter to raise funds.
The Coralbot team from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University are hoping to raise $107,000 (£70,000) before June.
The campaign, which began this week, has more than 80 backers and has raised nearly $3,000 (£1,900) so far.
Coralbots are able to navigate their way across damaged reefs, transplanting pieces of healthy coral as they go.
The robots have already been tested at sea, but the team is keen to move to the next stage – giving them computer vision to “see” healthy bits of coral and design arms to pick up and put down the pieces in the right places.
“Kickstarter funds will let us purchase and assemble this kit, and allow us to conduct our first live demonstration of the robot team on a coral reef in a public aquarium,” said marine biologist and Coralbot team member Lea-Anne Henry.
“This will provide a conservation solution that paves the way for coral reef restoration across the globe.”
The team has developed several different coralbot models, but plans to work with one dubbed Nessie.
It wants to build two robots and demonstrate what they can do at an aquarium in Edinburgh in the autumn.
If successful, the robots will then be sent on their first mission, to repair coral reefs in Belize.
A quarter of all marine life inhabits coral reefs, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
In coastal areas, they also provide an important barrier against natural disasters such as storms, hurricanes, and typhoons.
There are fears coral reefs may begin to disappear within 50 years.
Besides destructive fishing practices, other contributing factors are careless tourism and carbon-dioxide emissions that make seawater more acidic, leading to the death of key coral species.