Working two hours by ferry from the nearest city presented its share of challenges. When the bumpers that kept the computer afloat exploded from the sun's heat, "we wound up trading someone a bunch of beers for some hard plastic floats," says Kent Headley, a team engineer. Fish and sea cucumbers were regular visitors to the site, but so were venomous blue-ringed octopuses and cone snails. In the end, the researchers managed to pull off a weeklong proof of concept. Next, they're making the Proto more portable and appropriate for deeper waters, where they can monitor other ecosystems, including kelp forests.