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Coming soon: MBARI’s new robotic technology lab

Coming soon: MBARI’s new robotic technology lab

At MBARI, we regularly develop new technologies to explore, understand, and protect the ocean. The discoveries we make far below the ocean surface start in our laboratories where MBARI scientists and engineers regularly test new equipment and ideas to advance our ability to uncover the ocean’s great mysteries.

This artist rendering shows the design of MBARI’s new Instrumentation Integration and Testing Facility, the institute’s first new laboratory building in more than 20 years. Illustration: © 2022 MBARI

Building upon more than three decades of innovation and invention, MBARI is excited to announce that we are expanding our capacity with a robotic technology lab: the Instrumentation Integration and Testing Facility. This two-story, 31,900-square-foot facility will provide scientists and engineers the space they need to complete critical assembly, integration, and testing of new equipment before it is deployed into the harsh conditions of the ocean.

“A healthy ocean is our first line of defense against climate change. As the planet continues to warm, we need to stay one step ahead with new discoveries and innovations to understand and better manage the ocean,” said MBARI President and CEO Chris Scholin. “Our new Instrumentation Integration and Testing Facility will be an unprecedented proving ground for our scientists and engineers to test ideas and ensure our technology is field-ready, while increasing the speed with which we can scale our designs and move from research to operations.”

Expanding opportunities for exploration and innovation

MBARI’s new two-story, 31,900-square-foot Instrumentation Integration and Testing Facility in Moss Landing will give our scientists and engineers the lab space they need to complete critical assembly, integration, and testing of new ocean exploration equipment. Illustration: © 2022 MBARI

Conveniently located across the street from MBARI’s dock, the new building will allow us to transfer newly developed marine research tools from the integration and test laboratories directly to our research ships and sea trials. The state-of-the-art facility will also provide space for a weather deck to test the satellite communication capabilities of various instruments (e.g., long-range autonomous underwater vehicles (LRAUVs), floats, gliders) and a meeting space we can convert into classrooms to accommodate training programs or conference rooms for hosting seminars. Additionally, the Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CenCOOS)—a regional network of organizations based along the coast that collects, integrates, and shares a wide array of ocean information for the public’s benefit—will be headquartered there.

The Instrumentation Integration and Testing Facility joins the new Expedition Staging Building as MBARI’s first new buildings in more than 20 years. The Instrumentation Integration and Testing Facility will allow us to test new technology innovations, while the Expedition Staging Building will help our team prepare marine equipment for deployment in remote field expeditions beyond Monterey Bay, including Mexico and the Arctic. Together, these facilities mark an exciting new chapter that will expand MBARI’s research capacity.

MBARI’s new Expedition Staging Building, located on the north end of the island, will provide a facility for our marine operations team to prepare equipment and supplies in support of remote field expeditions. Illustration © 2022

“Now we will have space to host our annual cohort of talented summer interns, launch our new apprenticeship program, and provide expanded training and more hands-on experience for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who are just starting their marine science careers,” said George Matsumoto, a senior education and research specialist at MBARI who oversees the summer internship program. “We’re excited about the many ways the new facility will help us train the next generation of ocean explorers and contribute to the future of ocean conservation.”

Accelerating ocean discovery and conservation

Other key features of the new facility that will enable MBARI to accelerate its ocean discovery and conservation efforts include:

  • A high bay with an overhead crane for assembling newly developed instruments and sensors before moving them onto research vessels for deployment and testing at sea;
  • Freezers to preserve samples of marine organisms and deep-sea sediments;
  • A variety of research laboratories, including a lab for housing robots like the LRAUVs, which are used to collect ocean health data, an analytical room for processing environmental DNA (eDNA) samples collected using MBARI’s Environmental Sample Processor (3G ESP), and a clean room for assembling and testing precise electronic instruments (e.g., Global Ocean Biogeochemistry Array (GO-BGC) floats that measure oxygen, chlorophyll, and pH);
  • An operations center for coordinating field programs; and
  • A multimedia center to support in-house training programs, workshops, and seminars.

Benefitting the Moss Landing community

A newly installed boardwalk will provide improved beach access for the community. Photo: Todd Walsh © 2022 MBARI

As part of MBARI’s shoreside facilities development initiative, we are also making broader capital improvements on behalf of the Moss Landing community, including:

  • Off-street public parking opposite the boatyard and additional street parking at the end of the island;
  • Enhanced beach access for the surrounding community, featuring a boardwalk that runs along the new parking strip and another boardwalk at the northernmost point of Sandholdt Road from the road to the ocean side of the harbor entrance;
  • An unprecedented level of local dune restoration to reduce invasive species and provide critical habitat for endangered plants and area wildlife; and
  • Public safety improvements through reduced traffic and easier access for emergency vehicles.
Additional public parking will be available at the north end of the island bordered by a second boardwalk. Photo: Todd Walsh © 2022 MBARI

“The new boardwalk ensures every member of the community can access and enjoy the beauty of the beach in Moss Landing,” said Kim Solano, owner of Moss Landing’s The Haute Enchilada. “MBARI has supported my restaurant The Haute Enchilada in ways I will be forever grateful for. They have been my inspiration to craft my menu and operate as sustainably as possible. MBARI is a cherished partner to all local businesses.”

MBARI is constructing the new building on the same footprint as an existing building that has reached the end of its life span. The construction is set to start in the fall of 2022 and is estimated to take approximately 20 months. Check back for updates as we move forward with this important project. Visit mbari.org, follow us on social media, or subscribe to our newsletter for the latest news from MBARI.


For additional information or images relating to this article, please send an email to pressroom@mbari.org