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MBARI sends underwater robot to study Deepwater Horizon spill
Date:5/28/2010

MOSS LANDING, CA MBARI's Division of Marine Operations, under an agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), sent a high-tech robotic submersible to the oily waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The goal is to collect information about the oil plume from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig accident for NOAA.

Although satellites and aircraft can help show the extent of the spill at the surface, MBARI's autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) will help researchers understand the nature and extent of any plumes of oil that may be hidden beneath the surface of the ocean.

The MBARI AUV is being deployed from the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The Gordon Gunter departed from shore on Thursday, May 27th. The AUV was launched into the waters of the Gulf for the first time this morning (May 28, 2010).

Autonomous underwater vehicles are robotic, untethered submersibles that are programmed at the surface, then navigate through the water on their own, collecting data as they go. The MBARI AUV can measure physical characteristics of the water, such as temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen, detect chlorophyll from microscopic marine algae, and measure concentrations of small particles (or oil droplets) in the water.

This AUV is unique in that it carries "gulper" samplers that can collect up to ten 1.8-liter water samples while traveling through the water (or through the plume in this case). The AUV also uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence software to decide where to go and when to collect its water samples. Engineers can program the on-board computers to help the AUV find a plume and then map its boundaries, as well as take water samples both within and outside the plume.

After the AUV is recovered, its water samples will be analyzed for a variety of chemicals associated with the oil and dispersants. These samples may also be subjected to DNA analysis to determine what types
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Contact: Kim Fulton-Bennett
kfb@mbari.org
831-775-1835
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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