Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) researchers have partnered with two companies to build and market undersea technology developed at WHOI: the Imaging FlowCytobot, an automated underwater microscope, and BlueComm, an underwater communications system that uses light to provide wireless transmission of data, including video imagery, in real or near-real time.
WHOI biologists Robert Olson and Heidi Sosik, creators of the Imaging FlowCytobot, have licensed their instrument to Falmouth-based McLane Research Laboratories, which manufactures and sells a wide range of precision oceanographic instruments.
WHOI engineers Norman E. Farr and Jonathan Ware are partnering with U.K.-based underwater acoustics and communications company Sonardyne International Ltd., to create the joint venture, Lumasys.
The Imaging FlowCytobot detects, photographs, and collects data on microscopic plants and animals -- phytoplankton and zooplankton in the ocean, characterizing, measuring, and quantifying their cells in order to identify them. The automated instrument is low-powered and low-maintenance; it gathers information 24 hours a day, for up to six months at a time, and sends it via fiber-optic cable tether back to a surface ship or land-based lab.
Olson says the instrument was borne of frustration. He and Sosik wanted a clearer picture of the types and numbers of plankton living in the ocean, but weren't satisfied with traditional methods of gathering samples every few hours on research ships at sea.
"There was no good instrument to do what we wanted to do," Olson says. So the two began to develop one, starting with a prototype of the Imaging FlowCytobot in 2003.
What Sosik and Olson didn't realize was that the Imaging FlowCytobot would soon show its versatility and potential for applications. In 2007, while collaborating with Texas A&M biological oceanographer Lisa Campell in the Gulf of Mexico, a prototype version of
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