Mobile Robotic Laboratory Will Track Ocean Toxins

Posted: May 21, 2013

By: Allie Wilkinson [Popular Mechanics]

Harmful algal blooms can turn normal-looking shellfish into toxic payloads that, if eaten, can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to death. This unseen danger unnerves shellfish growers and fisheries managers, who need to know immediately when and where to shut down fisheries to prevent illness. Now, with the help of a new autonomous underwater robot, researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) are one step closer to sniffing out ocean toxins and ensuring that safe seafood ends up on your plate.

The Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) is a robotic molecular laboratory that allows scientists to remotely collect samples from the ocean and test them to see which species of algae is present and whether or not it is toxic. A rotating carousel loads a puck into the collection stage, where ocean water is collected and filtered to separate out the particles. The sample is then heated to dissolve the organic material and then transferred to a second puck containing DNA probes. Chemical reagents are injected into the puck and the puck is moved to a low-light imaging camera. The image captured is then transmitted to shore by a radio or cell phone network and analyzed by scientists.

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Posted By: This arlcite keeps it real, no doubt. On: 9/14/2013

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This arlcite keeps it real, no doubt.

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