Thursday, 20 October 2016

'Robomussels' used to monitor climate change

Date: October 17, 2016
Source: Northeastern University

The robomussels "look exactly like mus­sels but they have little green blinking lights in them,” says Hel­muth. “You basi­cally pluck out a mussel and then glue the device to the rock right inside the mussel bed. They enable us to link our field obser­va­tions with the phys­i­o­log­ical impact of global cli­mate change on these eco­log­i­cally and eco­nom­i­cally impor­tant animals.”

Tiny robots have been helping researchers study how climate change affects biodiversity. Developed by Northeastern University scientist Brian Helmuth, the "robomussels" have the shape, size, and color of actual mussels, with miniature built-​​in sensors that track temperatures inside the mussel beds.

For the past 18 years, every 10 to 15 minutes, Helmuth, professor in the College of Science and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, and a global research team of 48 scientists have used robomussels to track internal body temperature, which is determined by the temperature of the surrounding air or water, and the amount of solar radiation the devices absorb. They place the robots inside mussel beds in oceans around the globe and record temperatures. The researchers have built a database of nearly two decades worth of data enabling scientists to pinpoint areas of unusual warming, intervene to help curb damage to vital marine ecosystems, and develop strategies that could prevent extinction of certain species.

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