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News Journal: University of Delaware expands ocean research

In the cold waters off Antarctica, a solitary, yellow glider named the "Blue Hen" keeps track of the penguins that graduate student Megan Cimino monitors from a lab in Lewes.

Fellow student Matthew Breece follows endangered Atlantic sturgeon as they move along the Delaware and New Jersey coast each spring with a similar, autonomous, underwater robot that picks up acoustic signals from specialized tags implanted in the fish.

And associate professors Doug Miller and Art Trembanis are using underwater robots to track sea scallops off the coast.

These robots – some autonomous and some operated by remote control – are a growing part of the University of Delaware's College of Earth, Ocean and Environment research program.

And late last week, the university dedicated a new lab, the Robotics Discovery Laboratories, at the Lewes campus.

The lab includes a half-dozen, torpedo-like robots that can explore the bottom and map its contours, take continuous readings of environmental conditions – both at sea and in nearshore waters – and even rescue other robots when they get lost. Most get their marching orders from strings of computer code. Some can respond if researchers ask a question.

To help support the effort, the university also commissioned a new 46-foot research vessel: The R/V Joanne Daiber.

The boat will be used on short research cruises and in shallower estuary and nearshore water as an at-sea classroom for both undergraduate and graduate students, said Nancy Targett, dean of the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment.

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