LCSR Seminar: Brett Hobson “The development of robots for open ocean ecology”

March 29, 2023 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Hackerman B17
Christy Brooks

Link for Live Seminar

Link for Recorded seminars – 2022/2023 school year



The open ocean is a massive 3D ecosystem responsible for absorbing much of Earth’s excess heat and CO2 emissions produced by humans.  A portion of the ocean’s carbon pump sequesters atmospheric carbon into the sediments of the deep sea. Quantifying the amount of this carbon exported to the deep and identifying the variables driving that export is vital to understanding how we might better mitigate the deleterious effects of climate change. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Institutes MBARI has developed high endurance mobile robots to investigate ocean carbon transport. One of its vehicles, the Benthic Rover has been working continuously on the seafloor at 4000m for 6 years– measuring the spatial and temporal variability of carbon export from the surface. This long-term dataset has revealed that carbon enters the deep sea in large pulses of sinking detritus. MBARI is now focused on connecting these carbon pulses to processes in the upper layers of the ocean. Exploring, mapping and sampling the upper water column to uncover ocean productivity hotspots (HS) is a central/key initiative/goal requiring the collaboration of MBARI’s Long Range Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (LRAUVs) as well as other complementary vehicles that are able to measure the full ecology of the hotspots from the microbes to the whales.


Brett W. Hobson received a BS in Mechanical Engineering from San Francisco State University in 1989.  He began his ocean engineering career at Deep Ocean Engineering in San Leandro California, developing remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and manned submarines. In 1992, he helped start and run Deep Sea Discoveries where he helped develop and operate deep towed sonar and camera systems offshore the US, Venezuela, Spain and the Philippians.  In 1998, he joined Nekton Research in North Carolina to develop bio-inspired underwater vehicles for Navy applications. After the sale of Nekton Research to iRobot in 2005, Hobson joined the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) where he leads the Long Range Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) program overseeing the development and science operations of a fleet of AUVs.  He also helped develop MBARI’s long-endurance seafloor crawling Benthic Rover. Hobson holds a patent on the design of a biomimetic underwater vehicle and has been the Co-PI on large projects funded by NSF, NASA, and DHS projects aimed at developing novel underwater vehicles for ocean science.