The ocean is filled with jellyfish. They form critical links in the marine food chain, some are immortal and others remain floating enigmas. Some scientists consider them and other squishy creatures similar to living works of art, and they don’t want to kill or injure these masterpieces they’re trying to understand.
“It’s almost akin to how a scientist would study a painting in The Louvre,” said David Gruber, a marine biologist at the City University of New York’s Baruch College. “Someone studying the Mona Lisa wouldn’t just cut a piece off and do some analysis on it. We want to get as much information as we can without harming the painting.”
That’s why Dr. Gruber and a team of engineers and marine scientists are announcing a new invention for studying soft sea creatures like jellyfish or squid in their natural habitat.
The RAD sampler (short for rotary actuated dodecahedron), is essentially a 3D printed, origami catcher’s mitt. It uses a single motor to fold itself from a 20-inch flat star into a 12-sided encasement, eight inches wide. With it, researchers can gently hold squishy sea animals temporarily for observation without harming, killing or having to bring them to the surface. This sampler, which was detailed Wednesday in a paper in Science Robotics, is part of a larger effort to design robots that aid in the study of our planet’s most mysterious habitat.
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