A lot of marine sci­en­tists are more than happy to spend time in the ocean, placing instru­ments, taking sam­ples, and get­ting a first­hand look around. Mark Pat­terson, an affable Harvard-​​educated pro­fessor of marine and envi­ron­mental sci­ences at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, takes it a bit far­ther. He’s lived on the seabed for a grand total of 87 days. Yet Pat­terson knows that some­times there’s no sub­sti­tute for a good remote-​​controlled robot, like the AUVs that he and his lab col­leagues have designed and built. The acronym stands for autonomous under­water vehicle – basi­cally an ocean-​​going space probe.

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