[Coral-List] Information about and request for help with new diver portable underwater respirometer CISME

Alina Szmant alina at cisme-instruments.com
Mon Jun 24 17:34:20 UTC 2019

Dear Coral-List:

Thank you for reading (if you make it to the end) a rather long post. I am writing seeking your help with an assessment of level of interest in a new instrument we have developed to add to the technologies available to study coral physiology in situ.

Over the past 9 years, my UNCW colleague Dr. Rob Whitehead and I have developed with NOAA funding a diver portable underwater respirometer to make in situ measurements of coral metabolic rates (respiration, photosynthesis and calcification), which we named CISME (an acronym for Coral In Situ Metabolism; we pronounce it KissMe to reflect the gentle, non-destructive interaction between our instrument and the coral 😊). We equate CISME to being like an EKG for assessing the vital signs of corals with minimal disturbance in their natural environment. More details about the instrument design and function and several videos about it showing it being deployed can be found in the links in my signature below.

CISME was developed for use with relatively smooth mounding and platy corals, but has also been used with coral fragments, nursery corals, settlement plates, algal turf, CCA, macroalgae, and most recently boring sponges. Many applications can be envisioned, from basic physiological research, monitoring along environmental gradients, time-series pre and post bleaching events, reef bioerosion, and more. We envision that CISME could be modified to work with seagrasses and we have an adaptor for use with sediment cores for biogeochemical work.
With NOAA grant funds we built 6 of these instruments that remain property of UNCW and which we can lend out for beta testing and collaborations with scientists within the US (who have taken them abroad), and NOAA gave us permission to build two for sale to recover costs of excess parts; both of these were sold to research institutions in China. Several prestigious research groups have been using CISME for over a year now (a list of presentations to date will be added to our website). So, the technology has been validated by our field tests and that of others.

During the past few years we have been tasked with trying to commercialize the instrument (NOAA is after all part of the US Dept. of Commerce). UNCW licensed the know-how back to us and we started an LLC to be able to build the instruments outside of UNCW. As research scientists who never envisioned taking on the task of commercializing a scientific instrument, we are learning as we go.

Our goal is to get enough CISMEs into broad use to demonstrate the value of this instrument, in the hopes that a scientific equipment manufacturing company will take over the license from UNCW and develop the instrument even further. In the meantime, we build CISMEs for sale with an advance payment to cover the cost of the parts. We are not making any money, since that is not our goal, but we have to cover costs.

In order to attract venture capital or a social investor to help us achieve our goal, we need to demonstrate profitability. The question always comes up who would be CISME customers, and how much are they willing to pay. Truth in advertising: CISME is not cheap to build, and the sales price is comparable to that of the technologically similar Walz Diving PAM. In fact we envision that many researchers who use the Diving PAM in their field work would also benefit from having the added capabilities of CISME: direct measurements of respiration and photosynthesis based on actual oxygen and carbon units not by proxy through rETR, as well as of calcification if incubation samples are titrated for total alkalinity.

Now to the intent of this email: I am hoping you will be willing to answer a the five questions below that will help us in seeking grants and investment to further CISME development and availability.

1)      After reviewing the information on our website and considering the types of research and monitoring your group does, do you envision that you would be interested in adopting CISME as part of your research tool kit?   YES  or  NO

2)      If YES, what sort of applications would you want to use CISME for? Be as specific as possible: types of organisms (corals vs other taxa; types of corals; research objectives).  FEEL FREE TO EMAIL ME WITH QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR TOPICS OF INTEREST. I WILL BE GLAD TO ADVISE YOU WHETHER WE THINK CISME WOULD BE USEFUL FOR YOUR APPLICATION OR NOT.

3)      If YES, how much would you be willing to pay per CISME: for comparison, the new Walz Diving PAM retails in the $29-32K depending on accessories I believe. PLEASE GIVE A BALL PARK FIGURE. $________

4)      We believe that with some investment we could do some redesign to get the cost of manufacturing CISME down, but the question is whether this is worth it. Would you be more likely to consider buying a CISME if the sales price was $30K vs $20K?

5)      We have been thinking about mounting a crowd-sourcing campaign to raise the funds to cover the costs of building CISMEs for a competition in which the instrument is given away to the best proposal from research groups from institutions or research groups from lower-income countries. WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO SUPPORT SUCH AN EFFORT BY MAKING SMALL DONATIONS AND HELPING PUBLICIZE THE EFFORT, REVIEWING AND VOTING ON SUBMISSIONS?
Many thanks to those of you who respond with replies to these queries.

Alina Szmant

Dr. Alina M. Szmant, CEO
CISME Instruments LLC
210 Braxlo Lane,
Wilmington NC 28409 USA
AAUS Scientific Diving Lifetime Achievement Awardee
cell: 910-200-3913<tel:(910)%20200-3913>
Website:  www.cisme-instruments.com<http://www.cisme-instruments.com/>

Videos:  CISME Promotional Video 5:43 min   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAYeR9qX71A&t=6s
CISME Short version Demo Video 3:00 min  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fa4SqS7yC08
CISME Cucalorus 10x10 Sketch   4:03 min  https://youtu.be/QCo3oixsDVA

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