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Ocean robots take the pulse of our planet by measuring microbes

An influx of nutrients into a particular area can fuel a massive algae growth. Changing water temperatures can shift the distribution of available food sources. Patches of the sea can absorb carbon dioxide and acidify. All of these changes require phytoplankton to respond to new pressures. Unfortunately, eavesdropping on them can be a bit of a challenge. One solution may come in the form of "a lab in a can," said molecular biologist Chris Scholin, president and chief executive of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. It's an ocean-going robot that brings the tools of a molecular biology lab to the sea.