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Images: A Robot Starts to Make Decisions on its Own

Before a dive, WHOI engineer Rod Catanach prepares Sentry's high-tech “nose”—an underwater mass spectrometer developed by WHOI scientist Rich Camilli that can detect and identify minute quantities of chemicals in seawater. The instrument, called TETHYS, is in the cylindrical gray metal housing with the multiple rows of band clamps around it. (Photo by Rich Camilli, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The TETHYS mass spectrometer aboard Sentry detected chemicals clues of a cold seep and the robot requested permission to change course and see if a cold seep was actually there. Sentry turned out to be right. It homed in on a site where UCSB scientist Dave Valentine, diving in the submersible Alvin, had found a cold seep and left a marker with his name on it (upper left) in 2007. (Courtesy of Dave Valentine, University of California, Santa Barbara)

WHOI scientists Rich Camilli (left) and Dana Yoerger have spearheaded efforts to give more autonomy to the autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry. Yoerger helped lead the development of the deep-sea robot. Camilli engineered the TETHYS underwater mass spectrometer that allows Sentry to collect chemical clues in the ocean. (Chris Reddy, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Marine geochemists Dave Valentine (left) of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Chris Reddy of WHOI study natural oil seeps on the seafloor right off the coast of Santa Barbara. Above, they sniff a rock sample recovered from the ocean bottom that still retained its petrochemical odor. (Karin Lemkau, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)