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Liquid Robotics crowns PacX Challenge winner for ocean research

Beating out four fellow finalists, Tracy Villareal wins the PacX Challenge with a proposal to compare ocean data collected by satellites with data collected on the surface of the ocean.

The new Liquid Robotics Wave Glider SV3 is an autonomous sea-faring data center, capable of gathering, processing, and transmitting data from oceans throughout the world. Liquid Robotics

Liquid Robotics, the maker of Wave Glider autonomous ocean-faring robots, Tuesday announced the winner of its inaugural PacX Challenge.

The startup, which launched in 2011, awarded $300,000 worth of research time on a Wave Glider, as well as a $50,000 research grant from BP to Tracy Villareal, a professor of marine science at the University of Texas at Austin.

Villareal's propsoal, which beat out four other finalists, focuses on comparing scientific spatial data gathered by US satellite streams to data collected on the surface of the ocean using a Wave Glider. The goal is to understand the detection and behavior of phytoplankton species thought to be both essential in pulling carbon from the surface of the ocean and a major source of food for deep-sea species.

In a release, Liquid Robotics said that Villareal's research gave the scientific community valuable new validation from the ocean's surface of what had previously been seen only by satellites. That data is essential in understanding how global climate change is affecting the health of the oceans.

Correction, 2:29 p.m. PT: This story incorrectly stated the name of the PacX Challenge winner. The winner is Tracy Villareal.