URI Honors Colloquium continues Oct. 25 with discussion of robots used to study ocean, atmosphere

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KINGSTON, R.I. – October 17, 2011- Three noted scientists will discuss the use of drones and robots in the study of the ocean and atmosphere on Oct. 25 as part of the University of Rhode Island’s fall Honors Colloquium, which examines the question “Are you ready for the future?” The program begins at 7:30 p.m. in Edwards Auditorium on the URI Kingston campus. It is free and open to the public.

The speakers will be James Bellingham, the chief technologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Joseph Cione, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Research Division, and Chris Roman, a professor of oceanography at URI specializing in ocean robotics.

Roman will participate in the discussion remotely from a ship in the Mediterranean, where he will provide real-time images of robots being used to study the seafloor.

New technologies are leading to a rapid change in the way the environment is studied, according to the speakers. Their lecture will examine how scientists study the coupling between the ocean and the atmosphere. Processes associated with these couplings are of immense importance to understanding the dynamics of the ocean and its response to the changing environment.

Bellingham designs and builds underwater robots that can navigate without direction from an operator while observing the ocean. He is the co-founder of Bluefin Robotics Corp., a leading manufacturer of autonomous underwater vehicles for scientific, military, and commercial markets.

Cione studies the atmospheric processes that lead to extra-tropical winter storms and hurricanes. He discovered a link between changes in hurricane intensity and storm-induced ocean cooling that resulted in improved hurricane forecasting, earning him the U.S. Department of Commerce Bronze Medal Award for Superior Federal Service.

Roman’s research interests focus on developing sensing systems and methods for acoustic and photographic mapping of the seafloor, with the goal of finding novel new engineering solutions for interesting science questions. This work involves underwater vehicle design, acoustic instrumentation, image processing and mapping algorithm development.

The rest of the speakers in the Honors Colloquium are: biological engineer and brain and cognitive scientist Ed Boyden on enhancing the brain — past, present and future (Nov. 1); cognitive scientist Deb Roy and media researcher Johanna Blakley in a panel on social media (Nov. 8); cybersecurity expert Richard Clarke on cyberwarfare (Nov. 15); and Laurie Zoloth, director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society, on ethics and genetics (Nov. 29).

All of the lectures will be streamed live at www.uri.edu/hc, where the complete schedule of events is also listed. For additional information about the URI Honors Colloquium, contact Deborah Gardiner at debg@uri.edu or 401-874-2382.

Major sponsors of the Honors Colloquium are the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, the URI Honors Program, and the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, with sustaining sponsors including The Mark and Donna Ross Honors Colloquium Humanities Endowment and the URI Office of the Provost and Office of the President. Additional support is provided by URI’s Harrington School of Communication and Media, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, Classroom Media Services, College of the Environment and Life Sciences, College of Human Science and Services, College of Business Administration, College of Pharmacy, Office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance, University College, Coastal Institute, Division of University Advancement, College of Nursing and Department of Communication Studies.