Faculty of Science

UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Coastal and Regional Oceanography Lab

Towards an integrated understanding of boundary current systems

The high-resolution revolution: underwater gliders off the coast of NSW


Since 2008, NSW-IMOS in collaboration with the Australian National Facility for Ocean Gliders (ANFOG) have deployed underwater gliders off the coast of New South Wales. More than 150,000 profiles have been measured by the gliders over 11 years. This high-resolution information is useful for understanding the impacts of climate change, and for understanding physical and biogeochemical processes occurring both on and off the Shelf, and close to coastal / estuarine environments.

To see the latest glider deployments around Australia, visit the ANFOG website.

How do gliders work?

Underwater gliders are buoyancy-driven ocean sensor platforms designed to glide through the water column to depths of up to 200 m (shallow gliders) or 1000 m (deep gliders). Glider buoyancy is controlled by changing the glider’s volume, increasing or decreasing its density relative to the surrounding water, causing the glider to move vertically. The wings attached either side of the glider creates lift, causing the glider to move horizontally. Gliders move slowly in the water column, and are autonomous, relatively low cost, and energy efficient, allowing deployments to last several months at a time.

What do gliders measure?

Gliders measure conductivity, temperature, and depth. These parameters help us gain insights into the physical dynamics of the NSW coastal region. To investigate biogeochemical processes in the region, chlorophyll fluorescence, dissolved oxygen concentrations, colored dissolved organic matter, optical backscatter, and light intensity are also measured.

Above: Glider deployments since 2008.
Above: Stuart deploying the glider at Yamba, August 2016. Photo taken by Tim Austin.
Above: Glider measured temperatures during mission NEMO 18