What is cool about the Benthic Rover is that it is designed for long-term deployments – it just finished a month-long mission and will be doing longer and longer missions in the future.
The term ‘benthic’ refers to the ecological zone near and on the sea floor. Geologists commonly refer to the distinction of benthic foraminifera and planktonic foraminifera in the rock record – the former representing micro-critters that lived on the sea floor and the latter at or near the sea surface.
About the size of a compact car, the new robot carries equipment to measure the amount of oxygen being consumed by organisms on the ocean floor, as well as the amount of food that filters down from surface waters. For the first time, scientists will be able to track how changes on the surface of the ocean affect marine communities down below.
This is super cool – and the fact that it will be doing longer deployments in the future means it can collect data continuously for weeks or even months in a row.
The Wired post has a great video of the rover in action on the sea floor – check it out.
Also check out this press release about the rover from MBARI’s website.