One of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s long-term goals is to restore the health and productivity of the world ocean, on which all life depends. MBARI research results have contributed to raising public awareness about the health and future of the ocean.
Underwater robots collect and archive seawater samples
Ocean microbes produce at least 50 percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere while removing large amounts of carbon dioxide, and form the foundation of marine food webs. Researchers from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UH Mānoa) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) deployed a small fleet of long-range autonomous underwater vehicles (LRAUVs) containing an integrated Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), a miniature robotic laboratory that collects and preserves seawater samples at sea. MBARI engineers designed the robots to allow researchers to track and study ocean microbes in unprecedented detail.
“The new LRAUVs can transit for over 600 miles, and use their own ‘eyes and ears’ to detect important oceanographic events like phytoplankton blooms,” Edward DeLong of UH 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.” This information will provide unique insight into 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—and will improve current ocean models, which are critical for developing expectations on the health of future oceans.