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Robotic Laboratories Fan Out to Study the Seas
Since the HMS Challenger voyage in the late 1800s, expeditions to the farthest reaches of the ocean have provided the backbone of knowledge about marine science. In the wake of an ever growing list of aquatic issues like ocean acidification, sea level rise and coral bleaching, the real challenge for oceanographers is keeping up with understanding the effects of a changing climate. With some newly developed technology however, there’s now a team of robots able to lend a helping hand.

These robots are called Environmental Sample Processors, or ESPs, and they look like R2-D2 in swim floaties. Once set free in the ocean they take biological samples, perform lab experiments in situ, and can ping results back to land via satellite. Rather than outsourcing the exploratory science of oceanography to robots, ESPs are expanding the reach and scope of where scientists are able to investigate.


 
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Manoomin – The Good Berry - Twenty-three years ago, I canoed the upper Mississippi River for the first time. It was early October on a glorious blue-sky day with brightly colored fall foliage everywhere throughout the adjacent forests. Numerous and nearly impenetrable stands of cattails often blocked passage along the river’s channel, requiring me to carefully examine the current’s direction to learn which way to go.


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