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The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
Picture of red tide taken from the NOAA Research Vessel Ron Brown
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NOAA

Robots Watch out for Poisonous Plankton!
News story originally written on January 30, 2003

Sometimes things that are very small can be very scary! Plankton that live in the sea are very small but some of them can be dangerous to people, fish and other animals. So, scientists have made robots to search the seas for the dangerous plankton!

Plankton float in the ocean and travel where the currents take them. There are many different types of plankton and only a few types are harmful. The harmful ones are special types of algae. Algae are small creatures with only one cell. They make their own food like plants do.

Most types of algae are very good. Animals like clams, fish and whales eat algae as food. But a few types of algae have poison in them and are not good for animals to eat. Sometimes the poisonous ones grow very fast and make a reddish cloud in the ocean water called a red tide. It is very important for people to not eat seafood that has the red tide poison in it.

Scientists have made special robots that travel around the oceans and look for poisonous algae. The scientists hope that the robots will help tell people who live near the ocean if there is a red tide coming.


Last modified January 31, 2003 by Lisa Gardiner.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA