Share this project

Done

Share this project

Done
We are engineers and explorers who plan to help Yellowstone scientists make what could be tomorrow's greatest discoveries.
We are engineers and explorers who plan to help Yellowstone scientists make what could be tomorrow's greatest discoveries.
We are engineers and explorers who plan to help Yellowstone scientists make what could be tomorrow's greatest discoveries.
593 backers pledged $100,449 to help bring this project to life.

About

New Robot to Explore the Depths of Yellowstone Lake project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
sound

New Robot to Explore the Depths of Yellowstone Lake

$100,449

593

Why explore Yellowstone Lake?

Yellowstone started a proud tradition of protecting our planet’s most unique environments when it became the world’s first National Park more than a century ago. However, there is a part of Yellowstone that very few people have visited. An entire ecosystem that is hidden from us at the surface. A place that scientists are eager to study and may harbor unknown life; the depths of Yellowstone Lake.

We now know that the bottom of the Lake is far from barren, hosting species of crustaceans, sponges, and even small creatures that feed off of the Earth’s heat and chemistry rather than the Sun. ‘Thermophilic’ (or hot water-loving) microbes thrive in the relatively high-temperatures immediately surrounding active thermal features at the bottom of the Lake and scattered throughout Yellowstone Park. These creatures may be microscopic but they have the potential to profoundly influence the medical and biological sciences.

An artist's visualization of the new Yellowstone robot "Yogi" sampling a thermal feature at the bottom of the Lake. Artwork by Michelle Anderst.
An artist's visualization of the new Yellowstone robot "Yogi" sampling a thermal feature at the bottom of the Lake. Artwork by Michelle Anderst.

The study of one particular microbial species found in the backcountry of the Park in the 1970’s, Thermus aquaticus (Taq), led to the development of the Nobel prize-winning method used to decode DNA and opened the floodgates to modern molecular biology. Researchers believe that because these organisms live in temperatures comparable to those inside the human body, analysis of their metabolic and physiological processes could to lead us to more effective treatments for cancer and other devastating human diseases. NASA scientists have also suggested that these thermal environments, and the unique lifeforms they support, might hold clues to the origin of life on this planet and possibly elsewhere in the universe.

It is estimated that less than 1% of Yellowstone's microbes have been identified so far and it’s hard to predict what might be learned from those that have yet to be discovered. Many of these unknown species could be at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake right now, but the National Park Service does not have the tools needed to thoroughly characterize the Lake’s deep water ecosystem on their own.

With your help we plan to support the National Park Service by building and operating "Yogi" the Robot, which will be capable of gathering the data they need to more thoroughly understand this unique ecosystem. It is now more feasible and cost-effective to develop a high-quality robotic platform than ever before and it’s finally time to take exploration in Yellowstone Lake to the next level.

Southeast arm of Yellowstone Lake. Image courtesy of Yellowstone National Park.
Southeast arm of Yellowstone Lake. Image courtesy of Yellowstone National Park.

Who is the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration?

The Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration (GFOE) is a non-profit engineering organization dedicated to empowering the global science community with robotic tools to explore the world’s oceans and large lakes. GFOE is made up of engineers and explorers who design and operate vehicles used to study the bottom of the ocean and who now plan to build a robot to explore the largely unknown depths of Yellowstone Lake. With the launch of this Kickstarter campaign to build "Yogi" the Robot, we are pioneering a new way to fund underwater exploration--crowdfunding directly through the public, to produce high-definition underwater video and scientific data for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone.

Our President and mentor, Dave Lovalvo, has been exploring the oceans and large lakes of the world with remotely operated vehicles (ROV’s) for over 30 years. In 1985, he had the opportunity to bring the first robotic technology into Yellowstone Lake as an extension of his previous work with underwater vehicles. He partnered with scientists who were interested in studying hydrothermal activity in the Lake at depths greater than what was possible with standard diving techniques. Dave designed the mechanical components, coded the software, and tested and operated this robot himself. This was at a time when ROV’s were an emerging technology and not widely used.

The original Yellowstone Robot, circa 1985. Image courtesy of Bob Landis.
The original Yellowstone Robot, circa 1985. Image courtesy of Bob Landis.
Dave (right) preparing to launch the vehicle. Image courtesy of Bob Landis.
Dave (right) preparing to launch the vehicle. Image courtesy of Bob Landis.

Dave’s novel underwater vehicle was able to capture truly stunning video even with the relatively low-resolution cameras available in the early 1980’s. For the first time, humans were able to see the towering rock formations, sweeping plains, and colorful thermal vents at the bottom of the Lake. Dave and the scientists had discovered what is a complex ecosystem riddled with hydrothermal features as impressive as the geysers that have made Yellowstone so iconic. More than 30 years later, only one other person has gone back into the Lake with robotic technology to help characterize the unique features at its bottom.

Unique rock formations at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake, as imaged by the original Yellowstone Robot.
Unique rock formations at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake, as imaged by the original Yellowstone Robot.
The shadow of a towering rock formation looms in the background, as imaged by the original Yellowstone Robot.
The shadow of a towering rock formation looms in the background, as imaged by the original Yellowstone Robot.
A school of fish swimming in Yellowstone Lake, as imaged by the original Yellowstone Robot.
A school of fish swimming in Yellowstone Lake, as imaged by the original Yellowstone Robot.

We no longer need to rely on one young engineer to design, build, and operate this kind of vehicle on their own. Dave has assembled a team of the brightest young minds in the industry and united them through our non-profit organization. The GFOE team already has experience building and operating underwater robots that explore deep ocean environments in some of the most remote places on Earth through a partnership with NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Our engineers have successfully managed over 150 ROV dives at depths of up to 3.7 miles, providing ocean scientists with insight into some of the most inaccessible ecosystems on the planet. They have proven themselves to have the professionalism, talent, and determination to continue what Dave started and carry exploration in Yellowstone Lake through the next 30 years.

As such, we are well positioned to build a next-generation robot designed by a new generation of engineers and create the capability for scientists in Yellowstone to make what could be some of tomorrow’s greatest discoveries.

The Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration team in front of the ocean-based Deep Discoverer ROV.
The Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration team in front of the ocean-based Deep Discoverer ROV.

Yellowstone National Park and the Yellowstone Association have offered to provide guidance on the research priorities and on the education and outreach components of the work done by this new robotic platform. Other groups such as the highly-respected Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, U.S. Geological Survey, Oregon State University, University of Minnesota, and Montana State University will make important contributions in guiding some of the science that will be supported by the robot in the years to come.

Why use crowdfunding for this project?

The cost of this kind of vehicle depends largely on its capabilities but they typically cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build. However, MBARI has provided us with basic mechanical schematics and control software for "Yogi", GFOE engineers have already invested the time to adapt the design, and several major components have been privately donated to the project. One of these private donors has even offered a 1:1 match on any funds raised through Kickstarter, up to $100,000. This means that your donation will effectively be doubled. We have many of the important pieces in place but we need at least $100,000 in public support to raise the $200,000 required to actually build "Yogi" and move the project forward.

Here is a summary of how GFOE hopes to use funds raised through Kickstarter, including the 1:1 match:

  • HD Camera: $30,000
  • Robotic Arm: $40,000
  • Thrusters: $45,000
  • Buoyancy Foam Pack: $15,000
  • Navigation Equipment: $20,000
  • Sensors: $25,000
  • Tether System: $15,000
  • Structural Components: $10,000
A photorealistic 3D model of "Yogi" the Robot.
A photorealistic 3D model of "Yogi" the Robot.

"Yogi" is designed to record high-definition video and enable scientists to collect delicate biological, geological, and chemical samples from thermal features at the bottom of the Lake. Some of its specifications include:

  • Dimensions: 3ft x 3ft x 4.5ft (the size of a clothes washer/dryer unit)
  • Weight: 600lbs (scientific payload of up to 120lbs)
  • Depth Rating: 4,920 feet (1500 meters)
  • Thrusters: 4 axial, 2 vertical
  • Multiple high-definition cameras
  • 5-function electric manipulator for sample collection
  • Suction sampler for sediment and biological material
  • Temperature sensor
  • Water sampler for collecting hydrothermal fluids
  • Chemical sensors for analyzing composition of hydrothermal fluids
  • 130-color sonar
  • Acoustic navigation system
  • Expandability for the addition of cameras and sensors in the future

Underwater vehicles of this kind typically have lifespans of 10-20 years which leaves ample opportunity down the road for this robot to explore other large lakes beyond Yellowstone. For now, we at the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration hope to support scientists in a place that is cherished, provide valuable knowledge for future generations, and foster a growing community of young, passionate explorers.

And, right now, you have the opportunity to help make this happen.

Smoky sunset over Yellowstone Lake. Image courtesy of Yellowstone National Park
Smoky sunset over Yellowstone Lake. Image courtesy of Yellowstone National Park

Risks and challenges

GFOE engineers have many years of collective experience with remotely operated vehicles and exploring underwater environments. As such, we are familiar with the challenges that face us in the design, construction, and operation of the Yellowstone Robot. Our successful work with vehicles in the deep ocean gives us confidence in our ability to overcome any engineering issues that we may encounter during development and deployment.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    You will receive an email from the GFOE team thanking you for your support!

    $5 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    66 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Your name will be listed on the GFOE website so everyone can see that you helped explore Yellowstone Lake!

    +'Thank You' email from the GFOE team

    $10 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    70 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    You will be given exclusive access to our engineering development blog. Get the latest updates on how the project is progressing!

    +Name listed on GFOE website
    +'Thank You' email from the GFOE team

    $15 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    71 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    You will receive a high-resolution digital poster featuring an image of the Yellowstone Robot in action!

    +Exclusive access to engineering blog
    +Name listed on GFOE website
    +'Thank You' email from the GFOE team

    $25 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    127 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    You will receive 3 high-resolution digital posters featuring our artist's rendering of some of the most popular animals found in Yellowstone National Park!

    +Digital poster of Yellowstone Robot
    +Exclusive access to engineering blog
    +Name listed on GFOE website
    +'Thank You' email from the GFOE team

    $50 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    36 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    You will receive a high-resolution digital map of Yellowstone Lake!

    +Digital posters of Yellowstone animals
    +Digital poster of Yellowstone Robot
    +Exclusive access to engineering blog
    +Name listed on GFOE website
    +'Thank You' email from the GFOE team

    $75 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    18 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    You will have special access to a documentary short film that follows the behind-the-scenes story of the design, construction, and operation of the Yellowstone Robot!

    +Digital map of Yellowstone Lake
    +Digital posters of Yellowstone animals
    +Digital poster of Yellowstone Robot
    +Exclusive access to engineering blog
    +Name listed on GFOE website
    +'Thank You' email from the GFOE team

    $100 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    55 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $120 or more About $120

    You will receive a card in the mail that features a stunning photo of the Yellowstone Robot...and it will be signed by a GFOE engineer!

    +Special access to documentary short film
    +Digital map of Yellowstone Lake
    +Digital posters of Yellowstone animals
    +Digital poster of Yellowstone Robot
    +Exclusive access to engineering blog
    +Name listed on GFOE website
    +'Thank You' email from the GFOE team

    $120 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    16 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $220 or more About $220

    You will receive a GFOE Yellowstone Robot T-shirt to proudly show off your support!

    +Signed postcard from GFOE team
    +Special access to documentary short film
    +Digital map of Yellowstone Lake
    +Digital posters of Yellowstone animals
    +Digital poster of Yellowstone Robot
    +Exclusive access to engineering blog
    +Name listed on GFOE website
    +'Thank You' email from the GFOE team

    $200 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    32 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    You will receive a 9"x12" print of an amazing underwater image captured by the Yellowstone Robot at the bottom of the Lake...and it will be signed by GFOE's Lead Explorer Dave Lovalvo!

    +Yellowstone Robot T-shirt
    +Signed postcard from GFOE team
    +Special access to documentary short film
    +Digital map of Yellowstone Lake
    +Digital posters of Yellowstone animals
    +Digital poster of Yellowstone Robot
    +Exclusive access to engineering blog
    +Name listed on GFOE website
    +'Thank You' email from the GFOE team

    $480 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records. Written acknowledgment available upon request.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    18 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Your legal name will be engraved on a 'Major Contributors' titanium plaque mounted on the Yellowstone Robot!

    +Signed 9"x12" print of underwater photo
    +Yellowstone Robot T-shirt
    +Signed postcard from GFOE team
    +Special access to documentary short film
    +Digital map of Yellowstone Lake
    +Digital posters of Yellowstone animals
    +Digital poster of Yellowstone Robot
    +Exclusive access to engineering blog
    +Name listed on GFOE website
    +'Thank You' email from the GFOE team

    $980 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records. Written acknowledgment available upon request.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    8 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  12. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,500 or more About $1,500

    You can choose your favorite animal from Yellowstone National Park, our artist will create a custom 9"x12" Gouache painting of it, and we will mail you the original print!

    +Name engraved on 'Major Contributors' plaque
    +Signed 9"x12" print of underwater photo
    +Yellowstone Robot T-shirt
    +Signed postcard from GFOE team
    +Special access to documentary short film
    +Digital map of Yellowstone Lake
    +Digital posters of Yellowstone animals
    +Digital poster of Yellowstone Robot
    +Exclusive access to engineering blog
    +Name listed on GFOE website
    +'Thank You' email from the GFOE team

    $1,350 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records. Written acknowledgment available upon request.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    Limited 7 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  13. Select this reward

    Pledge $3,000 or more About $3,000

    You and a guest will be invited to an informal event in Summer 2017 to see the Yellowstone Robot in person at Yellowstone National Park! You will have the opportunity to meet and chat with GFOE's Lead Explorer Dave Lovalvo as well as other members of our engineering team. Dates and times will be determined by availability. (Travel and accommodations are not included.)

    +Name engraved on 'Major Contributors' plaque
    +Signed 9"x12" print of underwater photo
    +Yellowstone Robot T-shirt
    +Signed postcard from GFOE team
    +Special access to documentary short film
    +Digital map of Yellowstone Lake
    +Digital posters of Yellowstone animals
    +Digital poster of Yellowstone Robot
    +Exclusive access to engineering blog
    +Name listed on GFOE website
    +'Thank You' email from the GFOE team

    $2,980 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records. Written acknowledgment available upon request.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    Limited 6 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  14. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 10,000 About $10,000

    You and three guests will be invited to join us for an afternoon on the boat to see the Yellowstone Robot dive to the bottom of the Lake in person at Yellowstone National Park! You will also be invited to have dinner with GFOE's Lead Explorer Dave Lovalvo. (Travel and accommodations are not included.)

    +Name engraved on 'Major Contributors' plaque
    +Signed 9"x12" print of underwater photo
    +Yellowstone Robot T-shirt
    +Signed postcard from GFOE team
    +Special access to documentary short film
    +Digital map of Yellowstone Lake
    +Digital posters of Yellowstone animals
    +Digital poster of Yellowstone Robot
    +Exclusive access to engineering blog
    +Name listed on GFOE website
    +'Thank You' email from the GFOE team

    $9,980 of your contribution is deductible for federal tax purposes. Please retain this document for your records. Written acknowledgment available upon request.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    1 backer
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.

Funding period

- (30 days)