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Scientists Develop Robots to Track Micro-Organisms in Oceans

The nation press services
2021-01-19 | Since 1 Month

Researchers from the University of Hawaii and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, after years of development and testing, have successfully demonstrated that a fleet of autonomous robots can track and study a moving microbial community in an open-ocean eddy, the German news agency reported.


According to the Science Robotics website, autonomous robotic fleets enable researchers to observe complex systems, especially at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is reducing opportunities for researchers to go to sea.

Oceanic microbes are essential players in the global climate system, producing roughly half of the world's oxygen, removing carbon dioxide and forming the base of the marine food web on Earth.

"The challenge researchers faced was to figure out a way to enable a team of robots -- communicating with us and each other because at depths of more than 100 meters (328 feet), it can't be tracked with remote sensing from satellites," said Brett Hobson, a senior mechanical engineer and a coauthor of this study.

The researchers have managed to program the new robot models to track microbes, locate them and keep seawater samples that the scientists can examine. The robots carried a suite of sensors to measure temperature, salinity, depth, dissolved oxygen and microbes in the depths.

"This work is really the fulfillment of a decades-long vision. Coordinating a robotic fleet to show how microbial communities react to changing conditions is a game-changer when it comes to oceanographic research," said senior author Chris Scholin.

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