Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Self-driving robots collect water samples to create snapshots of ocean microbes

08.03.2018

For the first time, scientists from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa (UH Mānoa) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) will deploy a small fleet of long-range autonomous underwater vehicles (LRAUVs) that have the ability to collect and archive seawater samples automatically. These new robots will allow researchers to track and study ocean microbes in unprecedented detail.

Ocean microbes produce at least fifty percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere while removing large amounts of carbon dioxide. They also form the foundation of marine food webs, including those that support global ocean fisheries. Edward DeLong and David Karl, oceanography professors in the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) have been studying these microbes for decades.


A long-range autonomous underwater vehicle carrying an environmental sample processor cruises beneath the surface during field trials in Hawaii.

Image courtesy of Elisha Wood-Charlson, University of Hawaii

Usage Restrictions. Image may only be used in association with a story about this research.

For this project, they and their teams are collaborating with engineers from MBARI to test new ways of adaptively sampling oceanographic features such as open-ocean eddies, swirling masses of water that move slowly across the Pacific Ocean, which can have large effects on ocean microbes.

In late February 2018, MBARI engineers completed the construction and testing of three new LRAUVs in collaboration with UH Mānoa scientists, and delivered them last week for their first deployment in Hawaiian waters. As the LRAUVs move through the ocean, they collect information about water temperature, chemistry, and chlorophyll (an indicator of microscopic algae) and send this data to scientists on shore or on a nearby ship.

Additionally, a unique aspect of these AUVs is an integrated Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), a miniature robotic laboratory that collects and preserves seawater samples at sea, allowing researchers to capture a snapshot of the organisms' genetic material and proteins.

MBARI has been developing ESPs for about 15 years. The first instruments were about the size of a 55-gallon drum. These latest ESPs, the third generation, are eight to ten inches in diameter--one-tenth the original size--and were designed specifically to fit inside an LRAUV.

Jim Birch, MBARI's lead engineer on the ESP project commented, "When we first talked about putting an ESP in an AUV, I thought to myself 'this is never going to happen.' But now I really think this is going to transform oceanography by giving us a persistent presence in the ocean--a presence that doesn't require a boat, can operate in any weather condition, and can stay within the same water mass as it drifts around the open ocean."

With its surveying ability, the LRAUV allows scientists to discover, track, and sample open-ocean eddies, which can be over 100 kilometers (62 miles) across and last for months. When these eddies spin counterclockwise they bring water from the depths up toward the surface. This water often carries nutrients that microscopic algae (phytoplankton) need to survive.

"The new LRAUVs can transit for over 600 miles, and use their own 'eyes and ears' to detect important oceanographic events like phytoplankton blooms," DeLong explained. "These new underwater drones will greatly extend our reach to study remote areas, and also will allow us to sample and study oceanographic events and features we can see by remote satellite imaging, even when ships are not available."

An expeditionary cruise aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute's (SOI) research vessel Falkor leaves on March 10 for open-ocean sea trials of MBARI's newly-designed LRAUVs. During this cruise, the researchers will locate an eddy using satellite data and then deploy the LRAUVs to survey the feature and collect water samples. When the robots return to the surface and are recovered, UH Mānoa researchers will extract DNA from the filters. This information will provide unique insight into the eddy's duration, stability, and influence on the ocean systems; and will improve current ocean models, which are critical for developing expectations on the health of future oceans.

"Although this fleet of AUVs will never replace our need for a capable research vessel, it will provide much needed access to the sea and the collection of novel data sets that would not otherwise be possible," said Karl.

###

This research is supported by the Simons Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the State of Hawai'i.

Media Contact

Kim Fulton-Bennett
kfb@mbari.org
831-775-1835

 @MBARI_news

http://www.mbari.org 

Kim Fulton-Bennett | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://www.mbari.org/long-range-auv-esp/

Further reports about: Bay Aquarium Research MBARI microbes microscopic algae vessel

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers discover vaccine to strengthen the immune system of plants
24.01.2020 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

nachricht Brain-cell helpers powered by norepinephrine during fear-memory formation
24.01.2020 | RIKEN

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Integrate Micro Chips for electronic Skin

Researchers from Dresden and Osaka present the first fully integrated flexible electronics made of magnetic sensors and organic circuits which opens the path towards the development of electronic skin.

Human skin is a fascinating and multifunctional organ with unique properties originating from its flexible and compliant nature. It allows for interfacing with...

Im Focus: Dresden researchers discover resistance mechanism in aggressive cancer

Protease blocks guardian function against uncontrolled cell division

Researchers of the Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital Dresden at the National Center for Tumor Diseases Dresden (NCT/UCC), together with an international...

Im Focus: New roles found for Huntington's disease protein

Crucial role in synapse formation could be new avenue toward treatment

A Duke University research team has identified a new function of a gene called huntingtin, a mutation of which underlies the progressive neurodegenerative...

Im Focus: A new look at 'strange metals'

For years, a new synthesis method has been developed at TU Wien (Vienna) to unlock the secrets of "strange metals". Now a breakthrough has been achieved. The results have been published in "Science".

Superconductors allow electrical current to flow without any resistance - but only below a certain critical temperature. Many materials have to be cooled down...

Im Focus: Programmable nests for cells

KIT researchers develop novel composites of DNA, silica particles, and carbon nanotubes -- Properties can be tailored to various applications

Using DNA, smallest silica particles, and carbon nanotubes, researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) developed novel programmable materials....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

„Advanced Battery Power“- Conference, Contributions are welcome!

07.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers discover vaccine to strengthen the immune system of plants

24.01.2020 | Life Sciences

Brain-cell helpers powered by norepinephrine during fear-memory formation

24.01.2020 | Life Sciences

Engineered capillaries model traffic in tiny blood vessels

24.01.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>