Porto Special Sessions

Opening Ceremony

Session Date: Tuesday, 9/21

Session Time: 9:15 AM – 10:00 AM WEST


Joao Sousa, LSTS-FEUP, Porto, Portugal

Eduardo Silva, ISEP and INESC-PT, PT

Antonio Pascoal, IST, Univ. Lisbon, Portugal


Prof. Manuel Heitor, Portuguese Minister of Science and Technology and Higher Education

Admiral Mendes Calado, Portuguese Navy Chief of Staff

Prof. Miguel Miranda, Director Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA)

Rear-Admiral Ventura Soares, Director  of the Portuguese Hydrographic Institute (IH)



Plenary 1 –  21st September, 10:00-11:00 am WEST

Pedro Madureira

Geologist, Task Group for the Extension of the Portuguese Continental Shelf (EMEPC). Assistant Professor, University of Évora, Portugal


Session Summary:

The challenges of deep-sea exploration. The deep sea is often defined at water depths below 200 meters in depth and is considered to represent a domain providing services and resources that contribute to support our life on land. However, despite its importance it is also common to recognize that our understanding on deep sea biological and geological processes is still limited. This limitation partly arises from the harsh conditions that characterize the deep sea: zero visibility, great pressures and cold temperatures. Technological innovation is therefore crucial to access the deep sea and to get information on seabed morphology. Scientific knowledge is also driving the development of technology that will assist us to better map the deep ocean, particularly on the location of geological structures and substrates providing different habitats supporting particular ecosystems and the location and distribution of natural resources.

Since 2005, Portugal has been committed to map large areas of the deep ocean in order to acquire sufficient data and information to support the delineation of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. The knowledge of the seabed morphology at high resolution is crucial before deploying expensive equipment into the deep sea and fostered the acquisition of the 6,000 m rated Luso ROV in 2008. The latter has been considered as an asset for continuous technological development and a platform of collaboration amongst research groups from different national and international institutions and universities. The Luso ROV combines the acquisition of physico-chemical parameters from the water column with the recording of high-resolution video footages and the collection of water, sediment, rock and biological samples, contributing for a good characterization of the marine environment of a particular site. Some of the new challenges ahead of us will be addressed based on the emerging science and uses of the deep sea.



Pedro Madureira is a geologist working at the Task Group for the Extension of the Portuguese Continental Shelf (EMEPC). He has been coordinating the scientific and technical work related with the acquisition of data and information to support the outer limits of the continental shelf as submitted by Portugal to the United Nations. He is Assistant Professor at the University of Évora where he got his PhD in 2006 focused on the study of the different volcanic systems of Terceira Island, Azores. Since 2012 he is a member of the Legal and Technical Commission of the International Seabed Authority and some of his main interests are related the deep sea mineral resources and the deep seabed exploration.



Plenary 2 –  21st September, 15:00-16:00 am WEST

Dana Yoerger

Senior Scientist

Dept of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


Session Summary:

Exploring the seafloor and the midwater ocean with robots is a human adventure

In the past 5 decades, robots have enabled a revolution in our ability to survey and sample the ocean, from surface waters, through the mid ocean, to the seafloor. While the public may think our robots do all the work while we sit back and await the results, experience shows these endeavors are the product of intense, prolonged efforts by teams of skilled and dedicated people with a variety of complimentary skills. Specific stages of the development of a robotic system include project conception, building relationships with potential scientific collaborators, overcoming skepticism and even hostility from our scientific colleagues, securing funding, working through prototype development, maturing promising new systems into working scientific tools, going to sea and producing scientific results, and finally publishing results in the engineering and scientific peer-reviewed literature. This talk will illustrate these points through results from the author’s 40-year career developing and operating robots for ocean science.

Dana Yoerger is a Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a researcher in robotics and autonomous vehicles.  He supervises the research and academic program of graduate students studying oceanographic engineering through the MIT/WHOI Joint Program in the areas of control, robotics, and design.  Dr. Yoerger has been a key contributor to the remotely-operated vehicle Jason; to the Autonomous Benthic Explorer known as ABE; most recently, to the autonomous underwater vehicle, Sentry; the hybrid remotely operated vehicle, Nereus which reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench in 2009, and most recently Mesobot, a hybrid robot for midwater exploration.  Dr. Yoerger has gone to sea on over 90 oceanographic expeditions exploring the Mid-Ocean Ridge, mapping underwater seamounts and volcanoes, surveying ancient and modern shipwrecks, studying the environmental effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the recent effort that located the Voyage Data Recorder from the merchant vessel El Faro. His current research focuses on robots for exploring the midwater regions of the world’s ocean. Dr. Yoerger has served on several National Academies committees and is a member of the Research Board of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.  He has a PhD in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is a Fellow of the IEEE.



Plenary 3 –  22nd September, 08:00-09:00 am WEST

Part I

Irena Radić Rossi

Associate Professor, Univ. Zadar, Croatia


Session Summary:

The Post-Mediaeval Shipwreck of Gnalić (Croatia) in the light of new discoveries

Officially discovered in 1967, and partly rescued in 1973, the shipwreck of Gnalić (south of Zadar, Croatia) yielded plenty of evidence on the composition of cargoes in the late 16th century.  Based on the various recovered finds – some of them extremely rare or even unique – it is considered one of the most important Renaissance shipwrecks in the Mediterranean. Despite its cultural, historical and scientific importance, the site, until recently, remained unexplored, due to the lack of adequate financial and logistical resources. Restarting the underwater archaeological excavation in 2012 stimulated additional historical research in the State Archive of Venice, and offered the opportunity to involve experts from other scientific fields. The results immediately exceeded all expectations, and the efforts culminated in the project “The Shipwreck of Gnalić – Mirror of Renaissance World”, promoted by the University of Zadar, in collaboration with many other institutions from Croatia and abroad.

Starting from several documents discovered by Astone Gasparetto in the 1970s, the tentative identification of the shipwreck was confirmed through the correspondence of the Venetian ambassador in Constantinople, Giovanni Francesco Morosini, with the Senate of the Republic of Venice. During the past ten years, more than a hundred documents have been discovered which reveal the important events in which the ship was involved between its launching in 1569, and sinking in 1583, and the important people that took part in its story. The paper presents the results of the recent underwater excavation campaigns, the application of new technologies and the study of the archival resources, evoking the extremely rich cultural, economic, political and historical context.

Irena Radić Rossi graduated from the Department of Archaeology of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Zagreb. In 2004 she obtained the title of the senior conservator, as the highest rank in the cultural heritage conservation service. In 2009 she moved to the University of Zadar, where she is currently employed as associate professor. She is the associated researcher of the Centre Camille Jullian (Aix-Marseille University, CNRS), adjunct professor at the Nautical Archaeology Program of the Texas A&M University, and affiliated scholar of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology. Her main research interests focus on the technological development of the Adriatic shipbuilding and seafaring.



Part II

Filipe Castro

Researcher, Centre for Functional Ecology – Science for People & the Planet (CFE), Univ. Coimbra, Portugal


Session Summary:

Healthy Oceans and Maritime Cultural Heritage

The survival of the human species depends on the health of the oceans, and a good understanding of our relationship with the sea through time is the basis of all policy planning. Erosion, silting, transgressions, and sediment drifts are part of most inhabited landscapes. An understanding of these phenomena helped peoples build cities, develop harbours, exploit local marine resources, and plan expeditions and establish commercial networks.

The development of sustainable strategies to exploit the oceans must be based on a good understanding of the history of the landscapes and the peoples that inhabited them. Maritime archaeology must be a core component of any policy towards a sustainable use of the oceans. Activities such as fish and algae farming, production of energy, mining of submerged geological formations, or extraction of sediments, have obvious ecological impacts, but they can also destroy the cultural heritage.

This talk addresses the necessity to develop public databases for the maritime cultural heritage.

Filipe Castro is a researcher in the Centre for Functional Ecology – Science for People & the Planet (CFE), a R&D unit hosted by the Department of Life Sciences of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Coimbra. From 2002 to 2021 he was the Frederick R. Mayer II Professor of Anthropology at Texas A&M University and the Director of the J. Richard Steffy Ship Reconstructing Laboratory. He holds a civil engineering degree (1984), a post-graduation in recuperation of old buildings and monuments (1986), an MBA (1994) and a PhD in anthropology (2001). In 1995 he became manager at Centro Nacional de Arqueologia Náutica e Subaquática (CNANS), the Portuguese state agency for nautical archaeology. His main research interests cluster around early modern European seafaring and history of shipbuilding. He has conducted fieldwork in Brazil, Panama, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Croatia, and the United Arab Emirates.



Plenary 4 –  23rd September, 08:00-09:00 am WEST

Stefan Williams

Head, School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering at the University of Sydney. Professor of Marine Robotics at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics.


Session Summary:

Challenges in Deploying Robust Autonomy for Robotic Exploration in Marine Environments

This talk will describe insights gained from a decade of autonomous marine systems development at the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics. Over the course of this time, we have developed and deployed numerous underwater vehicles and imaging platforms in support of applications in engineering science, marine ecology, archaeology and geoscience. We have operated an Australia-wide benthic observing program designed to deliver precisely navigated, repeat imagery of the seafloor. This initiative makes extensive use of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) to collect high-resolution stereo imagery, multibeam sonar and water column measurements on an annual or semi-annual basis at sites around Australia, spanning the full latitudinal range of the continent from tropical reefs in the north to temperate regions in the south. The program has been very successful over the past decade, collecting millions of images of the seafloor around Australia and making these available to the scientific community through online data portals.  These observations are providing important insights into the dynamics of key ecological sites and their responses to changes in oceanographic conditions through time. We have also contributed to expeditions to document coral bleaching, cyclone recovery, submerged neolithic settlement sites, ancient shipwrecks, methane seeps and deepwater hydrothermal vents. The talk will also consider some of our more recent work focused on developing automated tools for working with this imagery and illustrate how this is being used to inform further exploration work using these platforms.

Stefan Williams is the Head of School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering at the University of Sydney and Professor of Marine Robotics at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics. He leads the Marine Systems group within the ACFR and is the head of Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Facility. His research interests focus on aspects of navigation, mapping, planning and control as applied to autonomous marine systems and the interpretation of the data collected by these systems. He has always had a strong focus on fielding real systems in support of scientific applications.+



Plenary 5 –  23rd September, 10:30-11:30 am WEST

Sandy Thomalla

Principal Scientist, Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observatory (SOCCO), CSIR, Cape Town, South Africa.


Session Summary:

Using integrated glider experiments to understand the scale sensitivity and variability of the Southern Ocean carbon system

I joined the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observatory (SOCCO) at the time of its inception in 2010. As a small research group, we needed a niche approach to address the grand challenge of improving our understanding of the role of the Southern Ocean in the carbon – climate system. This led to the formulation of our underpinning hypothesis that fine-scale ocean dynamics are key to understanding the large-scale variability and trends of the carbon cycle in the Southern Ocean. An emergent aim was to understand and constrain the seasonal cycle as the mode of variability that links ecosystems to climate. This could not be done from ships and required the use of observing platforms that could resolve the relevant time and space scales. This high-resolution observational strategy involved pioneering coupled (buoyancy and wave glider) robotics experiments in the Southern Ocean implemented through a number of Southern Ocean Seasonal Cycle Experiments (SOSCEx) that have provided a unique interconnection between mixed-layer physical and biological processes and ocean-atmosphere CO2 flux. It has been a journey fraught with difficulties and the occasional disappointment but ultimately eclipsed by moments of realisation of achieving innovative and pertinent science. Overall, SOCCO continues to make a growing contribution to our understanding of the role that fine-scale dynamics play in shaping the characteristics of the seasonal cycle of phytoplankton and air-sea CO2 flux (e.g. via the role of submesoscale dynamics and storms, that drive high-frequency mixed-layer exchanges of key nutrients and dissolved inorganic carbon) and ultimately inter-annual to decadal variability.

This presentation shares some key insights that have emerged from our group’s approach to address the Southern Ocean through a seasonal cycle lens using novel multi-glider experiments. Results highlight the need for climate models to resolve both meso- to submesoscale and intra-seasonal processes in order to accurately reflect phytoplankton phenology,  CO2 flux and the sensitivity of the biological carbon pump to climate change.

Sandy Thomalla is a principal scientist at the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observatory (SOCCO) at the CSIR, in Cape Town, South Africa. She obtained her PhD in 2007 from the University of Cape Town in association with the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, UK. Her early research focused on understanding the biological carbon pump through measurements of primary production and carbon export while her postdoctoral research characterised the seasonal cycle of chlorophyll in the Southern Ocean using satellite ocean colour to provide a more dynamic understanding of phytoplankton phenology based on underlying physical drivers rather than climatological means. This research continues to play an important role in influencing SOCCO’s approach to advancing their understanding of the Southern Ocean carbon – climate system. Her current and future research has expanded into the development and application of ecosystem-appropriate, well-characterised products that translate ocean colour (and in situ bio-optical measurements) into carbon biogeochemistry (phytoplankton biomass, community structure and physiology) allowing new insight into ecosystem function. A key focus of her work is on assessing event, seasonal and inter-annual variability in ecosystem physical drivers and their biogeochemical response, in order to better understand the potential for carbon sequestration at a regional scale. The knowledge and experience gained from her years of research in phytoplankton productivity and carbon export amalgamates well with her expansion into bio-optical approaches that include in situ high-resolution estimates from autonomous platforms such as bio-Argo floats and gliders. The understanding gained from her ongoing research will feedback into biogeochemical models, specifically South Africa’s Variable Resolution Earth Systems Model (VrESM) for improved 21st century climate change projections.



Plenary 6 –  23rd September, 16:30-17:30 am WEST


  1. Jan Opberdecke – Head, Unit for Underwater Systems at Ifremer, France
  2. Joao Sousa – Head, Underwater Systems and Technologies Laboratory – LSTS, FEUP, Portugal
  3. Pere Ridao – Head of the Underwater Robotics Lab, Univ. Girona, Spain
  4. Antonio Pascoal – Coordinator, Ocean Thematic Area, LARSyS, IST, Univ, Lisbon, Portugal
  5. Niamh Flavin, Project Manager, Eurofleets+, Marine Institute, Galway Ireland
  6. Rafel Garcia, Director, Underwater Vision Lab, Univ. Girona, Spain


Session Summary:

Marine Robotics in the Framework of European Research Infrastructure Programs

In the framework of the H2020 INFRAIA program, the EuMarineRobots project established a European network of research infrastructure clustering a wide set of advanced robotics systems for marine applications. The strong representativeness of consortium and assets stem from world class research labs and expertise built on significant feedback from real world applications: all 15 partners are major players in end user fields such as ocean science, industrial intervention, defense, cultural heritage, and student training. Joint Research Actions (JRA) and Trans-National Access (TNA) conceptualize the implementation of this emerging network, as individual labs and robotic systems are not necessarily existing research infrastructure at national level (to be corrected). Research topics such as vehicle autonomy, enhanced environment perception, networked systems, assisted remote manipulation and underwater communication are amongst the topics addressed in the project, while external use through TNA covers applications in deep-sea exploration, ocean physics, offshore ROV intervention, multi-platform operations etc.

The EuMarineRobots project is presented alongside other European marine infrastructures such as the well-established network of European research fleets Eurofleets+. A complementary yet crucial role being reserved to information systems managing data from robotic systems, vessels and various kinds of instrumentation, the marine data system networks EModNet and SeaDataNet will be presented as well.


Jan Opderbecke is Head of the Unit for Underwater Systems at Ifremer. The unit develops remote operated and autonomous vehicle systems for use within the French Oceanographic Fleet infrastructure. The unit is actually running two major projects for the development of a 6000m AUV and a 6000m ROV system, and runs contributing research on key topics in order to provide vehicles with cutting edge performance, functional capabilities and payloads

Joao Sousa is with the ECE Department, Porto University, and is the head of the Underwater Systems and Technologies Laboratory – LSTS (https://www.lsts.pt/). His research interests include multi-domain unmanned vehicles, planning/execution control for networked vehicle systems, and applications to the ocean sciences, security, and defense. He is the chair of the Swedish Marine Robotics Center Advisory Board and a member of the NATO MUS Innovation Advisory Board. He was the chief scientist for the 2018 Schmidt Ocean Institute cruise Exploring Fronts with Multiple Robots. He has been co-organizing, since 2010, the REP(MUS) large-scale exercise in cooperation with the PO Navy, CMRE, and MUS-NATO. He is an Associate Editor of the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering and has authored over 400 publications, including 50 journal articles.

Pere Ridao received the Ph.D. degree in industrial engineering from the University of Girona, Spain, in 2001. He is currently the Director of the Computer Vision and Robotics Research Institute (VICOROB), the Head of the Underwater Robotics Research Center (CIRS), and an Associate Professor with the Department of Computer Engineering, University of Girona.Since 1997, he has participated in 24 research projects (15 European and nine national). He is the author of more than 100 publications.

Antonio Pascoal is an Associate Professor of IST, a senior researcher with the Institute for Systems and Robotics (ISR), and coordinator of the Oceans Thematic Area of the Laboratory of Robotics and Systems in Engineering and Science (LARSyS).  Since 2012, he has been an Adjunct Scientist with the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, India. He is a Visiting Faculty with the Department of Ocean Engineering, IIT Madras, under the Indian Sparc Programme. He was elected Chair, IFAC Technical Committee Marine Systems, from 2008-2014. He has coordinated and participated in a large number of international projects that have led to the design, development, and field-testing of single and multiple autonomous marine and air vehicles in cooperation with partners in India (National Institute of Oceanography, Goa), USA (Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA), Korea, (KAIST), and Europe. His research interests include Marine Robotics with applications to the development of aerial and marine robots for ocean exploration and exploitation.



Closing Session

Session Date: Thursday, 9/23

Session Time: 9:45 AM – 10:10 AM Pacific



Fausto Ferreira, Univ. Zagreb, Croatia

Joao Sousa, LSTS, FEUP, Portugal

Eduardo Silva, ISEP and INESC-PT, PT

Antonio Pascoal, Coordinator, IST, Univ. Lisbon, Portugal

Juan Carlos Luque, Universidad Nacional de San Agustín de Arequipa, Peru


Join us as we wrap up OCEANS 2021-Porto!