SciTech Now Episode 227

We explore farming on an urban rooftop; Peter deMenocal, director of Columbia University’s Center for Climate and Life, explains the climate innovation gap; unwanted algae is threatening Florida waterways; and a robotic surgical system makes precise surgery faster and easier.

TRANSCRIPT

COMING UP... URBAN FARMING ON A WHOLE NEW LEVEL.

THESE CUPS HERE WILL HOLD JUST ABOUT 2 INCHES OF RAINWATER.

AND ANY ADDITIONAL WATER WILL GO DOWN THE SLITS RIGHT HERE AND FOLLOW THESE CHANNELS.

THESE ARE ALL CHANNELS THAT ALLOW WATER TO MOVE THROUGH THE ENTIRE SYSTEM.

THE SECURITY OF OUR FOOD, WATER, AND SHELTER AT RISK.

THE WAY TO DEAL WITH IT, IN MY OPINION, IS TO COME UP WITH THE BEST SCIENCE POSSIBLE TO TELL US WHAT THE BEST STEP FORWARD IS AND USE THAT KNOWLEDGE TO MAKE WISE CHOICES.

THE THREAT OF TOXIC ALGAE.

IT'S A CYANOBACTERIA, SO IT IS A BLUE-GREEN ALGAE.

IT CAN LIVE IN ALMOST NO LIGHT.

AND IT CAN ALMOST FEED ON ITSELF.

AND FINALLY, A ROBOT IN THE OPERATING ROOM.

THEY HAVE MOTION THAT IS FAR GREATER THAN THE HUMAN HAND OR FINGERS.

SO IT ALLOWS US THAT DEXTERITY TO GET INTO NARROW SPACES AND DO MANEUVERS MINIMALLY INVASIVELY THAT WERE NOT POSSIBLE BEFORE.

IT'S ALL AHEAD.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY...

HELLO.

I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

WELCOME TO 'SciTech NOW,' OUR WEEKLY PROGRAM BRINGING YOU THE LATEST BREAKTHROUGHS IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION.

LET'S GET STARTED.

URBAN FARMS ARE CROPPING UP IN MANY CITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY AS A STRATEGY TO ENHANCE BIODIVERSITY, TO INCREASE ACCESS TO HEALTHY FOOD, AND TO MITIGATE STORM-WATER RUNOFF.

REPORTER ANNE-MARIE BERGER SHOWS US HOW A FARM IN ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, HAS TAKEN THIS TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL.

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FARMING -- IT'S NOT JUST FOR WIDE-OPEN SPACES.

THERE'S A NEW, GREENER TREND IN URBAN AREAS -- ROOFTOP FARMING.

AND ON TOP OF THIS TWO-STORY STORAGE BUILDING IN DOWNTOWN ST. LOUIS, FARMERS BEGAN PLANTING ROOTS THIS PAST SUMMER.

SO, THIS AREA THAT YOU SEE IN FRONT OF YOU IS GOING TO BECOME A REAL FUNCTIONING FARM WITH PLANTS IN THE GROUND, SOIL ON TOP OF THE ROOF, AND IT'S GONNA ALSO BECOME PART OF A COMMUNITY GARDEN AS WELL FOR THE CITY.

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FOOD ROOF FARM IS THE VISION OF URBAN HARVEST STL, A COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION WORKING TO TRANSFORM UNDERUTILIZED CITY SPACES INTO PRODUCTIVE LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS.

THIS BUILDING IS STRUCTURALLY STRONG ENOUGH TO HOLD THE WEIGHT OF THE FARM.

BUT BEFORE SEEDS COULD BE PLANTED AND VEGETABLES COULD GROW, THE ROOF REQUIRED A MAKEOVER.

IT WAS REDESIGNED AND ENGINEERED SPECIFICALLY FOR A GREEN ROOF SYSTEM.

A GREEN ROOF CAN HAVE MANY LAYERS -- ROOT BARRIERS, DRAINAGE AND RETENTION SYSTEMS, AND VEGETATION.

BUT THE FIRST STEP IS WATERPROOFING.

WHAT WE'RE DOING IS PUTTING DOWN A WHOLE NEW ROOF MEMBRANE ON THIS EXISTING BUILDING'S ROOFTOP, AND IT'S A MEMBRANE THAT'S SPECIFICALLY ENGINEERED AND DESIGNED TO BE COMPATIBLE FOR A GREEN ROOF SYSTEM.

SO IT'S A DIFFERENT TYPE OF MEMBRANE.

IT'S A PVC MEMBRANE VERSUS THIS TAR-BASED MEMBRANE.

AND THAT REALLY BECOMES THE FOUNDATION FOR THE FOOD ROOF ALTOGETHER AND HOW WATER DRAINS UNDERNEATH THE FARM ITSELF.

PROPER WATER DRAINAGE.

IT'S CRITICAL.

BUT A GREEN ROOF ISN'T A GREEN ROOF WITHOUT WATER RETENTION.

WHAT YOU'RE SEEING HERE, THIS IS A STORM-WATER RETENTION SYSTEM.

ANTHONY MAYER IS THE CEO OF HANGING GARDENS OUT OF MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN.

AND HE'S INSTALLING ON THIS FOOD ROOF THE LATEST WATER-CONSERVING TECHNOLOGY.

THESE CUPS ARE FILLED WITH A LIGHTWEIGHT AGGREGATE.

THIS IS A DRAINAGE STONE.

THEY GO ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE BOTTOM OF THESE CUPS, AND THE CUPS HAVE A FLAT BOTTOM.

THEY DON'T DRAIN IN THE BOTTOM.

THESE CUPS HERE WILL HOLD JUST ABOUT 2 INCHES OF RAINWATER.

AND ANY ADDITIONAL WATER WILL GO DOWN THE SLITS RIGHT HERE AND FOLLOW THESE CHANNELS.

THESE ARE ALL CHANNELS THAT ALLOW WATER TO MOVE THROUGH THE ENTIRE SYSTEM.

WHEN THE SUN BEATS DOWN ON THE ENTIRE SYSTEM, EVEN WHEN THE CUPS ARE FULL, IT'LL EVAPORATE OUT AND THEN ACTUALLY FEED THE PLANTS FROM BELOW.

HELPING TO FEED THE PLANTS IS THE GROWTH MEDIA.

SIMPLY PUT, IT'S THE CAREFULLY ENGINEERED SOIL PRODUCT THAT MIMICS DIRT, SUPPLYING PLANTS WITH NUTRIENTS, AIR, AND WATER.

THE FDA IS SAYING, YOU KNOW, 'EAT YOUR FIVE TO SEVEN, FIVE TO NINE VEGETABLES A DAY AND FRUITS,' BUT THEY'RE THE MOST POLLUTED OF ALL, YOU KNOW, OF OUR FOOD.

AND SO USING THIS WILL GIVE THEM THE RIGHT NUTRIENTS WITHOUT THE POLLUTION, THE PESTICIDES, AND THE CHEMICALS THAT GO INTO IT.

THE GROWING MEDIA ON FOOD ROOF FARM IS CALLED THE WaterGrip BROWNIE, AND IT'S HALF THE WEIGHT OF NORMAL GROWING MEDIA.

IT'S MADE OF AN ORGANIC MIX OF PROPRIETARY INGREDIENTS THAT ACTS LIKE A SPONGE, PULLING WATER FROM THE CUPS AND FEEDING THE ROOTS OF THE PLANTS.

YOU JUST PUT A LITTLE HOLE IN IT.

YOU POP IN YOUR PLANT.

AND USING CONSERVED RAINWATER REDUCES THE IRRIGATION NEEDS BY 50% TO 75%.

THERE IS NO GROWING MEDIA ON THE MARKET THAT HAS THE SAME WATER-HOLDING CAPACITY AS THIS SYSTEM DOES.

AND SO, WHEN THIS HOLDS 2 INCHES OF WATER, I MEAN... JUST IN ITSELF, YOUR NORMAL GROWING MEDIA, YOU KNOW, MIGHT GET YOU AN INCH AND A QUARTER.

BUT THIS GREEN ROOF SYSTEM DOES MORE THAN HELP WATER THE PLANTS.

IT LESSENS THE AMOUNT OF WATER THAT FLOWS THROUGH THE CITY'S STORM AND SEWER DRAINS, MITIGATING STORM-WATER MANAGEMENT AND POLLUTED RUNOFF IN ADJACENT RIVERS, STREAMS, AND LAKES.

IN THEIR FIRST GROWING SEASON ON JUST A 1/5-OF-AN-ACRE ROOFTOP, FOOD ROOF FARM PRODUCED 62 VARIETIES OF FOOD CROPS AND MORE THAN 1,000 POUNDS OF FOOD, MOST OF WHICH WAS DONATED TO A LOCAL HOMELESS SHELTER.

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ARE WE INVESTING ENOUGH RESOURCES IN SCIENCE AND CLIMATE RESEARCH?

OVER THE LAST DECADE, FEDERAL SPENDING ON RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AS A PERCENTAGE OF OUR COUNTRY'S GDP HAS BEEN DECLINING.

PETER DE MENOCAL, DIRECTOR OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY'S CENTER FOR CLIMATE AND LIFE, ARGUES THAT THE SHORTFALL IS CREATING AN INNOVATION GAP THAT COULD IMPACT THE SECURITY OF OUR FOOD, WATER, AND SHELTER.

SO, WHAT IS THE CLIMATE INNOVATION GAP?

SO, THE CLIMATE INNOVATION GAP IS REALLY, SIMPLY PUT, THAT WE'RE NOT UNDERSTANDING HOW CLIMATE IS GOING TO IMPACT THE THINGS THAT MATTER TO US MOST.

WHILE THIS YEAR JUST ANNOUNCED -- OR WE ANNOUNCED LAST YEAR THAT THE GLOBAL TEMPERATURE WAS THE HIGHEST EVER RECORDED BY ACTUALLY A VERY SIGNIFICANT MARGIN, THAT'S REALLY NOT WHAT PEOPLE CARE ABOUT.

WHAT PEOPLE CARE ABOUT IS HOW IT'S GOING TO IMPACT THINGS THAT MATTER TO THEM.

THIS IS THE CLIMATE INNOVATION GAP, WHICH IS THAT WE REALLY DON'T HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE TO INFORM HUMANITY OF HOW CLIMATE IS GOING TO IMPACT THE THINGS THAT MATTER TO THEM MOST -- FOOD, WATER, SHELTER, AND ENERGY.

SO, WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT INNOVATION, THERE ARE SOLUTIONS THAT ARE BEING CREATED FOR SOME OF THESE PROBLEMS.

I MEAN, BESIDES THE CAUSES, JUST THE EFFECTS, RIGHT?

AND ARE YOU SAYING THAT WE'RE NOT INVESTING IN THE RESEARCH TO FIND THOSE SOLUTIONS, THAT SOMEBODY ELSE IS?

WE'RE JUST NOT FOCUSING OUR ATTENTION ON THAT.

WHAT WE'VE BEEN FOCUSING OUR ATTENTION ON IN THE CLIMATE SCIENCE COMMUNITY HAS BEEN THE SORT OF MORE THORNY PROBLEMS OF THE DYNAMICS OF HOW CLIMATE IS CHANGING, BUT THE TRICKLE-DOWN IMPACT OF GLOBAL WARMING, IF YOU WILL, IS THAT IT WILL BE IMPACTING HOW MUCH RAINFALL SPECIFIC REGIONS GET, HOW MUCH -- HOW MORE FREQUENT HEAT WAVES WILL BE IN AGRICULTURAL REGIONS, HOW SEA LEVEL WILL BE IMPACTING URBAN CITIES AND COASTAL INFRASTRUCTURE.

SO THESE ARE REALLY FUNDAMENTAL FIRST-ORDER QUESTIONS THAT WE HAVE ABOUT HUMAN SUSTAINABILITY THAT WE -- THAT THE SCIENCE COMMUNITY REALLY DOESN'T HAVE ANSWERS TO.

SO, HOW DOES FILLING THIS GAP TURN INTO KIND OF AN ECONOMIC BENEFIT FOR US?

SO, THERE WAS A REPORT THAT CAME OUT JUST LAST YEAR CALLED 'RISKY BUSINESS,' LED BY MICHAEL BLOOMBERG AND OTHERS.

AND THAT WAS AN AMERICAN RESPONSE TO A STUDY THAT WAS DONE IN THE U.K. RECENTLY TO ACTUALLY EXAMINE THE ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

AND AGAIN, THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ARE NOT REALLY TIED TO THE SORT OF GLOBAL MEAN TEMPERATURE THAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT.

IT'S VERY REAL THINGS -- YOU KNOW, THE PRICE OF THE WHEATIES ON YOUR BREAKFAST TABLE, THE AVAILABILITY OF WATER IN A HOUSING DISTRICT, THE SECURITY OF SEA-LEVEL RISE AND COASTAL DEVELOPMENT.

SO THERE ARE REAL PRICE TAGS ATTACHED TO THIS.

I MEAN, SOME OF THE STATISTICS ARE JUST AMAZING.

FOR EXAMPLE, CROP YIELDS DECREASE BY 5% TO 15% IN THE COMING DECADES DUE TO INCREASED HEAT EVENTS.

SO HOW DO YOU GET, YOU KNOW -- SO HOW DO YOU MAKE THAT CONNECTION BETWEEN WHAT'S HAPPENING IN FEDERAL FUNDING AND WHAT THESE EVENTS ARE LIKELY TO DO TO OUR ECONOMY?

RIGHT, SO THIS IS WHERE I THINK THE OPPORTUNITY IS, IS THAT IT'S CLEAR IN THIS COUNTRY AT THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME THAT HAVING THE GOVERNMENT COME TO THE RESCUE IS REALLY NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

AND I THINK THIS IS WHERE THE OPPORTUNITY IS, IS THAT THERE'S A LOT OF MONEY TO BE MADE IN UNDERSTANDING WHERE RISK IS IN TERMS OF HOW IT IMPACTS THE U.S.

ECONOMY, AND THERE'S ALSO A LOT OF MONEY NOT TO BE LOST BY KNOWING WHERE THE RISKS ARE.

AND SO, BY RECOGNIZING OPPORTUNITIES AS WELL AS RISKS AND BASICALLY PLACING BETS ON THOSE, THE WORST THING THAT WE CAN DO IS TO BET AGAINST PHYSICS.

THE PHYSICS ARE GONNA HAPPEN.

THE KNOCK-ON EFFECTS RELATED TO THE GENERAL GLOBAL WARMING, IN TERMS OF HOW IT IMPACTS THE THINGS THAT MATTER TO HUMANITY, THOSE THINGS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN.

THE WORST THING THAT WE CAN DO IS BE REACTIVE TO THOSE CHANGES, JUST USING OUR ANIMAL BRAIN, IF YOU WILL, TO JUST BE THINKING QUICKLY BUT INCOMPLETELY ABOUT THE PROBLEM.

THE BEST THING WE CAN DO IS TO REALLY COME UP WITH A VERY DETAILED, RATIONAL, THOUGHTFUL PLAN THAT ALLOWS THE BUSINESS SECTOR TO BASICALLY COME TO THE RESCUE, AND I THINK BUSINESS AND FINANCE CAN ACTUALLY LEAD THE WAY INTO THE FUTURE.

SO, YOU'VE ALSO WRITTEN BEFORE THAT IT'S ALMOST LIKE THERE'S A COUNTERPRODUCTIVE NATURE TO THE DOOM AND GLOOM...

ABSOLUTELY.

...RIGHT, THAT IT DOESN'T HELP PEOPLE TURN A CORNER AND SAY THAT, AS YOU JUST POINTED OUT, THAT THERE'S ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS PROBLEM?

YOU KNOW, HARI, I'M REALLY GLAD YOU BROUGHT THAT UP.

I MEAN, I THINK THAT'S THE BIGGEST MISSTEP THAT I THINK WE'VE MADE IN THE PAST COUPLE OF DECADES, IS REALLY FOCUSING ON THE DOOM AND GLOOM MESSAGING TIED TO CLIMATE CHANGE.

YES, A LOT OF THE STUFF IS ALARMING, AND ONE CAN SAY ONE'S ALARMIST TO TALK ABOUT THOSE ISSUES.

BUT THE BIGGER ISSUE IS THAT PEOPLE BECOME PARALYZED BY FEAR.

AND THAT'S NOT THE APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO THIS CRISIS.

THE WAY TO DEAL WITH IT, IN MY OPINION, IS TO COME UP WITH THE BEST SCIENCE POSSIBLE TO TELL US WHAT THE BEST STEP FORWARD IS, AND USE THAT KNOWLEDGE TO MAKE WISE CHOICES.

THE CLASSIC EXAMPLE WOULD BE, YOU KNOW, THE APOLLO MISSION.

YOU KNOW, WE DIDN'T JUST GO UP THERE ON A WHIM AND A PRAYER.

WE WENT THERE WITH OUR BEST ENGINEERS, OUR BEST SCIENTISTS, AND AS A RESULT, WE WERE SUCCESSFUL.

WE NEED TO HAVE THAT SAME APPLICATION TOWARD THIS VERY REAL EXISTENTIAL PROBLEM.

ALL RIGHT.

PETER DE MENOCAL FROM COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY'S CLIMATE -- CENTER FOR CLIMATE AND LIFE, THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME, HARI.

♪♪

MORE THAN 600 MANATEES MIGRATE TO FLORIDA'S CRYSTAL RIVER EVERY WINTER, BUT OVER THE LAST FEW DECADES, THE SPRINGS THAT FEED THE RIVER HAVE GONE THROUGH DRAMATIC CHANGES.

NOW UNWANTED ALGAE HAS INVADED THIS IDYLLIC WATERWAY AND, IF LEFT UNCHECKED, COULD THREATEN THIS BELOVED SEA CREATURE'S ESSENTIAL SAFE HAVEN.

♪♪

CRYSTAL RIVER, FLORIDA, IS HOME TO AN AQUATIC PARADISE.

IT'S AN ECOSYSTEM WHICH INCLUDES AN ESTUARY, RIVER, AND SPRING SYSTEM THAT ALL STARTS AT KINGS BAY.

KINGS BAY PROPER IS ABOUT 600 ACRES.

IT'S A FAIRLY GOOD-SIZE BAY, BUT THEN YOU'VE GOT ALL THESE CANALS THAT GO BACK UP INTO WHERE THE RESIDENCES ARE AND GO BACK UP INTO THREE SISTERS SPRINGS.

LISA MOORE IS PRESIDENT OF SAVE CRYSTAL RIVER, A COALITION AND PARTNERSHIP MADE UP OF FRIENDS, NEIGHBORS, AND COMMUNITY LEADERS.

WHAT WE WANT TO SEE IS THAT IT'S BROUGHT BACK TO ITS PRISTINE CONDITION LIKE IT WAS IN THE '60s, WHERE THE WATER WAS SO CLEAR THAT YOU COULD LOOK OFF ANYBODY'S DOCK, AND YOU'D SEE FISH AND CRABS AND GRASSES, AND IT WOULD BE JUST ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL.

OVER THE PAST 60 YEARS, THE RIVER AND BAY HAVE CHANGED DRAMATICALLY.

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST DR. CHRIS ANASTASIOU ATTRIBUTES THE MAIN CULPRIT TO BE LYMBIA, AN ALGAE-LIKE MATERIAL.

LYMBIA IS A VERY STRANGE ORGANISM.

IT'S A CYANOBACTERIA, SO IT IS A BLUE-GREEN ALGAE.

SO IT KIND OF BEHAVES LIKE A PLANT, AND SOMETIMES IT KIND OF BEHAVES A LITTLE BIT MORE LIKE AN ANIMAL, IN THE SENSE THAT IT CAN LIVE IN ALMOST NO LIGHT AND IT CAN ALMOST FEED ON ITSELF.

NATURAL AND MANMADE ORGANIC SEDIMENT UPSET THE BALANCE HERE.

THE RESULT -- THE NATURAL EELGRASSES DIED OFF, AND LYMBIA TOOK OVER.

YOU KNOW THE OLD SAYING, 'NATURE ABHORS A VACUUM.'

IF THERE IS AN AREA THAT IS DISTURBED -- IN OTHER WORDS, YOU LOSE A LOT OF THE NATIVE GRASSES THAT WERE THERE -- LYMBIA COMES IN AND BASICALLY TAKES OVER.

AND THAT'S BEEN THE CASE HERE IN KINGS BAY.

THE SAVE CRYSTAL RIVER COALITION HAS WORKED TIRELESSLY TO FIND A SOLUTION.

THEY SOLICITED THE HELP OF GATOR DREDGING AND THE SEA & SHORELINE COMPANY TO DEVELOP A PLAN TO RESTORE THE BAY.

THEY APPROACHED THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE TO FUND THE PROJECT.

AND THE LEGISLATURE AGREED WITH US THAT, FIRST OF ALL, THIS IS AN OUTSTANDING FLORIDA WATERWAY AND IT SHOULD LOOK LIKE IT.

SO THEY GAVE US THE $1.6 MILLION APPROPRIATION AND TOLD US THAT THEY WOULD BACK US FOR THE 3.4-ACRE PROJECT THAT WE'RE WORKING ON RIGHT NOW.

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IN OCTOBER OF 2015, RESTORATION BEGAN.

LEGISLATORS, LOCAL POLITICIANS, AND INTERESTED RESIDENTS CAME TOGETHER TO KICK OFF THE EFFORTS.

THE PLAN IS TWOFOLD -- VACUUM UP THE LYMBIA AND ORGANIC MATERIAL, AND PLANT NATIVE FLORIDA EELGRASSES.

THIS MACHINE HERE SEPARATES BASED ON SIZE AND GRAIN SIZE.

IT'S CALLED A TRIFLO FILTER, AND IT'S GOT SHAKER SCREENS ON TOP.

AND AS THE LARGER MATERIAL HITS THE SCREEN, IT'LL STOP ON TOP.

AND ONCE THEY'RE TREATED ON THE BACK END, THEY GET HIT WITH POLYMERS THAT ANY SUSPENDED SOLIDS WILL GET BOUND TOGETHER WITH A HEAVY POLYMER AND SINK TO THE BOTTOM.

ONCE THAT GETS TREATED WITH THE POLYMER AND GETS PUT INTO A GEOTUBE, AND AS THE SEDIMENTS FALL DOWN TO THE BOTTOM, THE WATER POROUSLY COMES OUT THROUGH THE BAG.

AFTER REMOVING THE UNWANTED MATERIAL, DIVERS COME IN TO BEGIN PLANTING THE GRASS.

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NOW THE FIELD IS SET.

THE BOTTOM IS CLEAN.

WE CAN GO REPLANT.

HOWEVER, THERE'S A LARGE POPULATION OF MANATEES AND OTHER HERBIVORES -- TURTLES, DUCKS, AND OTHER FISH -- AND SO WE HAD TO USE A GROW S.A.V. CAGE ON TOP OF THE PLANTING UNITS SO, ONCE THE PLANTS ARE ESTABLISHED, THEY CAN GROW OUT.

THE GRASS THAT WE'RE USING FOR HERE IS NATIVE TO FLORIDA, AND IT'S AN ECOTYPE THAT'S CALLED ROCK STAR, AND WHAT IT EXCELS AT IS GROWING NOT SO MUCH ABOVEGROUND BIOMASS -- THE LEAVES, THE SHOOTS -- BUT THE BELOWGROUND.

THESE PLANTS ARE GONNA GET MUNCHED ON BY THE TURTLES, THE MANATEES, AND WE WELCOME THAT BECAUSE THE MORE THESE LEAVES GET NIBBLED DOWN, THE FASTER THE ROOTS ARE GONNA START GROWING.

AND THAT'S REALLY WHY WE CHOSE THIS ROCK STAR VARIETY.

WHILE THE SAVE CRYSTAL RIVER GROUP WORKS IN THE PRIVATE CANALS, THE MAIN PART OF KINGS BAY IS UNDER THE JURISDICTION OF THE SOUTHWEST FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT.

CHIEF SCIENTIST CHRIS ANASTASIOU IS TAKING A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT APPROACH TO RESTORING GRASS BEDS NEAR THE SPRINGS.

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IN ORDER TO COMBAT SOMETHING LIKE LYMBIA, YOU HAVE TO PHYSICALLY GO IN AND PLANT THE GOOD GRASSES THAT WILL EVENTUALLY, WITH CARE AND MAINTENANCE OVER TIME, OUT-COMPETE THE LYMBIA.

THEY TOO CHOSE THE ROCK STAR GRASS TO PLANT NEAR AN AREA KNOWN AS HUNTER SPRINGS.

THEY WERE ABLE TO OBTAIN THEIR GRASS FROM THE MARICULTURE CENTER, RUN BY DUKE ENERGY.

THE MARICULTURE CENTER IS A SERIES OF ONE-ACRE PONDS WHERE THEY TRADITIONALLY GROW FISH.

THROUGH THIS PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP, WE'VE BEEN GROWING THESE GRASS MATS OUT THERE FOR THE BETTER PART OF ABOUT A YEAR.

THE GRASS IS GROWN IN 3x15-FOOT COCONUT MATS.

THE WAY WE TAKE IT OUT OF THE POND IS WE PHYSICALLY WILL LIFT IT UP TO THE SIDE.

WE'LL ROLL IT, AND WHEN WE COME OUT IN THE FIELD, WE TAKE THE MAT, WE PUT IT IN THE WATER, AND THE GOOD THING IS THAT THE MATS WILL FLOAT FOR A TIME, LONG ENOUGH FOR US TO GET THE MATS, SWIM THEM TO THEIR FINAL POSITION, AND THEN SLOWLY WEIGHT THEM DOWN ON THE BOTTOM.

SO WE ALSO DECIDED THAT WE NEEDED TO PROTECT THE GRASSES, AT LEAST AT THE BEGINNING, FROM GETTING GRAZED ON BY MANATEE AND OTHER GRAZERS, LIKE TURTLES.

AND SO WE FINALLY DECIDED ON USING THE FENCED ENCLOSURES THAT WE ARE FLOATING IN RIGHT NOW.

TODAY, DR. ANASTASIOU IS CHECKING ON A NEWLY PLANTED FIELD.

IT IS ALMOST AN INSTANTANEOUS PHENOMENON, WHERE ALL OF A SUDDEN, YOU PUT THE GRASSES DOWN, YOU CREATE THE HABITAT, AND THE FISH START COMING IN.

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THE INFORMATION GATHERED AND RESULTS FOUND HERE WILL BE USED FOR FUTURE ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATIONS.

IT'S AN EXPERIMENT, JUST LIKE THE WORK THAT SAVE CRYSTAL RIVER IS DOING IN THE CANALS, WHERE WE'RE ALL TRYING DIFFERENT THINGS.

AND THE SECRET TO SUCCESS ULTIMATELY IS BEING ABLE TO DOCUMENT AND LEARN FROM THE EXPERIENCE THAT WE'RE HAVING RIGHT NOW.

IF WE CAN PERFECT THIS PROJECT, WHICH WE BELIEVE IS GONNA HAPPEN, THEN IT'LL BE A MODEL FOR THE STATE OF FLORIDA AND FOR OTHER AREAS THAT ARE FIGHTING LYMBIA, BECAUSE THERE'S A LOT OF LYMBIA AROUND.

THE SAVE CRYSTAL RIVER ORGANIZATION HAS HAD A BIG IMPACT ON BOTH THE RIVER AND THE PEOPLE.

I LIVED HERE.

I'VE GROWN UP HERE.

I STILL LIVE HERE.

MY CHILDREN AND MY GRANDCHILDREN LIVE HERE.

AND WE WANT TO SEE THE NEXT GENERATION HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ENJOY AND EXPERIENCE THE RIVER THE WAY WE DID WHEN WE WERE GROWING UP.

WE KNOW WHAT IT CAN BE.

♪♪

IN A WORLD WHERE THE PRECISION CAPABILITIES OF ROBOTS ARE BEGINNING TO OUTPACE HUMAN SKILL, CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY IS BEING TRANSFERRED TO THE OPERATING ROOM.

DA VINCI IS A ROBOTIC SURGICAL SYSTEM WHOSE DEXTERITY RIVALS THE HUMAN HAND.

REPORTER BRIANA VANNOZZI HAS THE STORY.

TINY ROBOTIC HANDS CONTROLLED BY A SURGEON ARE MIMICKING PRECISE SUTURES ON HUMAN TISSUE.

YOU CAN TAKE THIS NEEDLE AND REALLY MOVE IT ANY WHICH WAY.

THIS IS DA VINCI, THE MULTITASKING, MULTI-ARMED, MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR SURGICAL ROBOT.

THEY HAVE MOTION THAT IS FAR GREATER THAN THE HUMAN HAND OR FINGERS.

SO IT ALLOWS US THAT DEXTERITY TO GET INTO NARROW SPACES AND DO MANEUVERS MINIMALLY INVASIVELY THAT WERE NOT POSSIBLE BEFORE.

ROBOTIC SURGERY HAS HAD ITS KINKS OVER THE YEARS.

SINCE DA VINCI PREMIERED 15 YEARS AGO, THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL FALLOUTS OVER ITS SUCCESS COMPARED TO TRADITIONAL NONINVASIVE OR LAPAROSCOPIC PROCEDURES.

BUT DOCTORS ARE FINDING THE SYSTEM IS IMPROVING PATIENTS' LIVES, AND THEY'RE ENCOURAGING FELLOW PRACTITIONERS TO GET TRAINED.

INSTEAD OF MAKING A 12- TO 16-INCH INCISION THAT IS TRADITIONALLY MADE FOR OPEN SURGERY, WE'RE USING MULTIPLE 1/4-INCH OR SMALLER INCISIONS.

SO, CLEARLY, THERE'S MUCH LESS PAIN AFTER SURGERY.

THERE IS MUCH QUICKER RECOVERY FOR PATIENTS, WITH A SHORTER HOSPITALIZATION AND RETURN TO THEIR BASELINE LIVES MUCH QUICKER.

THIS ENTIRE SYSTEM TRANSLATES TO A SURGEON'S HAND.

ONE TINY MANEUVER WITH THIS ARM, AND IT COULD BE A 360-DEGREE ROTATION.

THAT'S SOMETHING I COULDN'T QUITE GET THE HANG OF WHEN I TRIED MY HAND AT IT.

CLOSE YOUR MIDDLE FINGER AND YOUR THUMB ON BOTH ENDS.

OH, WOW.

AND YOU'RE IN CONTROL.

IT WAS TRADITIONALLY USED FOR HYSTERECTOMIES, HERNIA REPAIRS, PROSTATE AND CANCER REMOVAL, BUT NOW --

WE'RE USING THE STATE-OF-THE-ART TECHNOLOGY FOR G.I., OR GASTROINTESTINAL, DISEASES AND CANCERS.

WE'RE USING IT FOR COLON AND RECTAL CANCERS.

WE'RE USING IT FOR CARDIOTHORACIC PROCEDURES INCLUDING BOTH VALVES, AND LUNG CANCERS.

DR. TANUJA DAMANI AT ST. JOSEPH'S MEDICAL CENTER IN PATERSON CONTROLS THE ROBOT THROUGH THE COMPUTER SCREEN.

IT'S A LOT LIKE BEING PART OF A 3D VIDEO GAME.

IT GIVES US A 10-TIMES MAGNIFICATION COMPARED TO NAKED EYE, AND GIVES US A THREE-DIMENSIONAL VIEW WHICH IS HIGH DEFINITION.

SHE SAYS THEY'VE SEEN MORE PATIENTS PUTTING OFF SURGERIES BECAUSE THEY'RE UNABLE OR WORRIED ABOUT TAKING TIME OFF FROM WORK.

THAT OFTEN RESULTS IN GREATER COMPLICATIONS.

BUT THIS SURGERY NEGATES THAT.

I WAITED ABOUT A YEAR, YEAR AND A HALF, AND THEN IT JUST GOT RIDICULOUS.

PATIENT LIDYANA CALLE-VEGA SAYS SHE WAS CONVINCED TO HAVE THE SURGERY AFTER BEING TOLD SHE'D BE BACK AT WORK WITHIN A WEEK.

I WAS IN THE OPERATING ROOM AT 7:00 A.M.

I WAS OUT OF THE OPERATING ROOM AT 11:30.

I WAS WALKING OUT OF THE HOSPITAL AT 3:00.

AND AT 7:00 P.M. THAT NIGHT, I WAS OUTSIDE, PLAYING WITH MY DOGS.

SURGEONS SAY, AS WITH ANY PROCEDURE, THE PROGNOSIS DEPENDS ON THE PATIENT AND CONDITION.

THEY'RE HOPING THE MORE IT'S USED, THE MORE COMFORTABLE PEOPLE WILL BE WITH THE HIGH-TECH HELPER.

♪♪

AND THAT WRAPS IT UP FOR THIS TIME.

FOR MORE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION, VISIT OUR WEBSITE, CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM, AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON TWITTER.

YOU CAN ALSO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YouTube CHANNEL.

UNTIL NEXT TIME, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

THANKS FOR WATCHING.

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