Scientists have developed an underwater robot that can scan the ocean for months allowing researchers to study life in the open.

The robot, called the Tethys, is designed to study organisms while recording the physical and chemical properties around them. It conducted its first experiments recently tracking algal blooms in California's Monterey Bay.

"We really think this is a revolution in vehicles," says the robot's creator Jim Bellingham, chief technologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in Moss Landing. "It changes how we do oceanography."

"The idea is to be able to develop 'life stories' of marine organisms by following them as they move through the ocean," says Bellingham. The Tethys will be only a little more expensive than gliders, which cost about $140,000 — cheap enough for individual labs to buy, he adds.In its first experiment, Tethys parked itself in an algal patch and drift along with it.

The robot is expected to reduce costly and time consuming ship voyages for oceanographers for experiments. Now, they can do these from shore by modifying the robot's mission and receiving data from it via satellite.

Scientists are already working on a new version of the Tethys, and plan to build a team of robots that can simultaneously track different organism in ocean from algae to marine animals.

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