Scientists Deploy Globalstar SPOT Trace to Monitor Currents and Biodiversity in the World’s Oceans

March 1, 2022 at 8:30 AM EST


  • German research institution The Helmholtz Center Hereon has engineered innovative ocean drifter devices built around Globalstar SPOT Trace satellite GPS trackers to advance oceanography research
  • Hereon is collaborating with the EU-funded Atlanteco project, both joining the growing international community of scientists and research institutions leveraging Globalstar technology
  • Globalstar’s LEO satellite fleet and SPOT Trace provide a reliable, data-rich yet affordable solution which helps researchers to study sea currents and marine biodiversity

Dublin, Ireland – 1 March, 2022Globalstar Europe Satellite Services Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Globalstar Inc. (NYSE American: GSAT), announces that German research institution The Helmholtz Center Hereon is using SPOT Trace satellite GPS trackers to conduct worldwide oceanography research.

Hereon has designed and engineered innovative ocean drifter devices built around SPOT Trace which monitor ocean surface currents and reveal how biodiversity levels change in the world’s major rivers and seas. “Our purpose is to understand in greater detail the surface flow of water and organisms around the globe,” explains Dr. Jochen Horstmann, scientist at Hereon.

“We already have a reasonable idea of how currents work from satellite imagery and numerical models. However, we need reliable measurements of surface currents to better understand their processes and to improve our models,” he adds. The researchers use surface floats, or drifters, fitted with an underwater sail suspended at half a metre depth. These drifters report their position and therefore track the near-surface currents.

“As researchers, we always strive to get best possible value for money in the equipment we use, not only for us but for those governments, institutions and private individuals who fund our work.” he says. “We needed drifters that were economical, but when we looked at what devices were already available, these were typically very expensive, so we decided to build drifters ourselves,” he adds.

Horstmann and his colleagues knew they needed to build drifters capable of capturing and transmitting data even in extreme ocean conditions. “Our drifter needed to be robust enough to endure the elements, in particular severe wind conditions and waves,” explains Horstmann.

Position information is transmitted every five minutes via the Globalstar satellite fleet in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). “By looking at the data transmitted by the SPOT Trace-equipped drifters, we can see where water and the organisms being carried flow and how biodiversity is affected,” he adds.

Hereon is also collaborating with the EU-funded Atlanteco project. Dr. Paulo Calil, a fellow scientist with Hereon, explains the Microbiomes experiment, which is the focus of Atlanteco.

“Over a billion microorganisms live in every litre of seawater, and thanks to plankton, the ocean absorbs 25% of the CO2 emitted by humans,” explains Dr. Calil. “But while an essential cog in the great climate machine, the functioning of this microbial world remains largely unknown,” he says.

“Our oceans are changing are becoming hotter on the surface because of climate change, and they are becoming more stratified,” Dr Calil explains.

Changes in ocean currents affect transport and connectivity patterns. Hereon’s studies are helping researchers to understand how currents interact with plankton.

“There are widespread consequences of changes in currents for marine productivity, which in turn affects carbon levels and the whole ‘machinery’ of the ocean, as well as weather patterns,” he adds. Additionally, many areas can be impacted economically, such as for fisheries.

Hereon’s drifters have shown that the organisms travel extremely far, due to intensifying currents.

For example, in the South Atlantic, swirling eddies that form on the southern tip of Africa are seen to spread species all the way to eastern South America.

SPOT Trace’s energy-efficient devices are playing a crucial role here: “Even after 150 days in the ocean, the drifters continue to send data, despite being subject to some rough conditions, waves and strong winds – we’re delighted and really impressed with SPOT Trace,” comments Horstmann.

Physical oceanographers, microbiologists, biologists, geneticists, and biological oceanographers are all benefitting from this research.

“We are extremely proud that Globalstar technology is playing such a significant role in enhancing our understanding of the natural world, and how climate change is impacting our oceans and the biodiversity of life in them,” comments Mark O’Connell, General Manager EMEA and APAC at Globalstar.

With its reliable tracking capabilities, robust physical properties including compact rugged design and long battery life, combined with its economical price, SPOT Trace has been widely embraced in the scientific community worldwide. Oceanographers across the globe are using SPOT Trace to gain a better understanding of the world’s seas, conduct oil spill research and monitor pollution.

About Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon

The Helmholtz-Zetnrum is a non-profit research institution in Germany. Its goal is to preserve a world worth living in. The centre researches new technologies for better resilience and sustainability, for the benefit of the climate, coast and people. The path from idea to innovation leads through experimental studies, modelling and artificial intelligence, bridging the gap from basic scientific understanding of processes to scenarios and practical applications in an interdisciplinary manner. An active member in international research networks and in the Helmholtz Association, it supports institutions from politics, business and society in shaping a sustainable future by transferring their expertise.

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About Globalstar, Inc.

Globalstar pioneered personal safety by introducing its SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger in 2007. Today, leveraging its low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation, Globalstar reliably connects and protects assets, transmits key operational data, and saves lives – from any location – for consumers, industrial companies and government agencies in over 120 countries. With a portfolio that includes SPOT GPS messengers, next-generation IoT products and modules, and cloud-based telematics solutions, Globalstar’s cost effective satellite-powered innovations give users visibility and intelligence for improving safety and operational

Note that all SPOT products described in this press release are the products of SPOT LLC, which is not affiliated in any manner with Spot Image of Toulouse, France or Spot Image Corporation of Chantilly, Virginia.

For media information:

Cynthia Ritchie
White Tiger Communications

[email protected]
+44 (0)20 3514 2525

Gavan Murphy
Globalstar Director of Marketing EMEA & APAC

[email protected]