Posted on in Marine Science

Researcher Uses Aquatic Robots to Study Climate Change

Marine scientist Tracy Villareal has won a prize to use aquatic robots to study algal blooms and dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Liquid-Robotics.jpgImage from Liquid Robotics.

To promote its products, Liquid Robotics, a company that makes aquatic robots, started a contest to see what scientist could best use the data the company collected from their Wave Glider robots' maiden voyages in 2011 and 2012. The robots had collected data about the make-up of water in different parts of the ocean as well as wave size. 

Villareal, of the Marine Science Institute, took the top prize with his research that pertained to climate change. (VentureBeat reported on the contest.) 

In his winning entry, Villareal used the data provided to all particpants by Liquid Robotics to study blooms and "dead zones" of phytoplankton, microscopic marine organisms that can be found at the bottom of many aquatic food chains. Phytoplankton play a huge role in climate change because they take up carbon from the ocean's surface. 

He will now get to use a robot to for six months to collect further data on the project of his choice.

He told VentureBeat the Wave Glider robots were able to cover much more water than ships, and they were free, so participating in the contest greatly helped his research. Villareal and his team found some interesting and unexpected blooms in the Pacific Ocean, thanks to the data.  

We also wrote about Villareal back in 2011 and his research into oil plumes deep in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Kaine is the science writing/communications intern for the College of Natural Sciences and a UT senior majoring in both biology and journalism. In August he will attend the Department of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for graduate school.

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