Local robots aid Gulf surveys

    Underwater robots developed by Rutgers, the University of Delaware and other universities are zig-zagging across the Gulf of Mexico.

    Oceanographers from Rutgers and the University of Delaware have sent their underwater robots to the Gulf of Mexico. WHYY’s health and science reporter Kerry Grens has more on their surveying efforts.
    (Photo: Flickr/NASA)

    Eight underwater gliders from universities across the country are criss-crossing the Gulf and sampling conditions. These unmanned robots gather information on salinity, temperature, and some can predict the presence of oil. They are scanning water conditions and searching for signs of oil north of the Florida Keys and near the BP oil spill itself.

    Track the underwater robotsExposing the belly of the bayRutgers University is gathering all the data on a freely available website where oil recovery teams can use them to predict ocean conditions and oil movements more accurately. Matt Oliver is an oceanography professor at the University of Delaware.

    Oliver: It’s really interesting to be able to sit at my computer and watch the dance of gliders from many separate institutions comb the Gulf in real time and see it all happen right there in front of you is quite amazing.

    Oliver says these unmanned gliders are useful in a crisis like this because they don’t sleep, they don’t get seasick, and they can enter hazardous conditions.

    Oscar Schofield is a professor in Rutgers’ Coastal Ocean Observation Lab.

    None of us had ever thought that we would end up having to marshal all of our assets in one area because of such a tragedy. What’s really heartening about it is a lot of the groups down there right now are working as one big team while the rest of the year we’re competitors.

    The Rutgers’ gliders had been getting set for an expedition in Antarctica, but Schofield says if there were ever a time to disrupt science, this is it.

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