I build things that look at tiny living things in the water, so that we can study where they live the most. This study is important because these tiny living things help larger living things, all the way to land, to us. Now we know very little about these tiny living things.
On land, the question is, where does this tree or that animal grow the most? What does it eat? In water, we also ask, do these tiny living things live deep, or near the top? Also, water moves around, carrying the tiny living things along. This makes it hard for us to look at these tiny living things on our own.
The things we build have computers, are very good with numbers, and move around without getting tired. However, they are not able to see the tiny living things we care about on their own. So, using numbers, they remember what we know about where the tiny living things like to live. The things we build then move around the water on their own, carefully making note of what it can see. They then use computers and numbers to think. Does it look like the tiny living things might be around? If so, take a drink of water, saving it for us to look into later.
They take many such drinks of water, over many hours, over a large place, and bring them back to us to look into. We use numbers to carefully note down which water has how many tiny living things. Then we give these numbers to the things we build, so that they also know using their computers what we just found out about where the tiny living things like to live.
The things we build, now knowing more, continues bringing back water to us for us to study. Over days and years — until we understand a lot about the tiny living things we care about.”
— JD. My work in marine robotics to study plankton.