Mary Ann Moran, Regents Professor and Distinguished Research Professor of Marine Sciences, was recently quoted in NewsDeeply about robots that are studying the ocean and its inhabitants.
About 80 miles north of Maui, Hawaii, a small fleet of robots has been collecting samples of ocean microbes in an eddy about 70 miles wide. The current expedition is the result of two converging technologies, both developed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute: long-range autonomous underwater vehicles and miniaturized environmental sample processors. The long-range AUVs have design features that save energy so they can travel for longer than typical underwater robots, including a specially designed propeller and components that reduce drag when diving or surfacing. Ocean microbes are understudied considering the crucial role they play for all life on the planet. They produce at least half the oxygen in the atmosphere, and the amount of carbon they assimilate from it is equal to that of all terrestrial systems combined.
“If we’re interested in how much carbon dioxide is escaping from the Earth compared to how much is stored, these little guys are really on the front line for driving these processes,” said Moran, who studies microbial ecology.