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Investigating the impacts of climate change on reef-building corals using robotic arms

Blue lights fill the room. The faint smell of salt emanates throughout the space as wires and tubes intricately suspended over robotic arms move along custom-built tracks over four rows of tanks filled with seawater – and fragments of critically-endangered corals.

In the Experimental Reef Lab, scientists at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) are investigating how crucial reef-building coral species are affected by the impacts of climate change using a suite of open-source robotic arms designed and built at AOML.

The “STAR System,” or the Sequential Treatment Application Robot, was created by the Coral Program’s Ian Enochs, Nash Soderberg, and Ana Palacio to facilitate and streamline research on the effects stressors will have on corals on an unprecedented scale.

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