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Public attention is frequently directed to visible macro-system impacts of events such as oil spills resulting in oil washing into estuaries, tar balls on beaches, and oiled megafauna. However oil and other types of accidental contaminants, such as radioactive particles, can have fundamental impacts on less-visible portions of delicate chemical and biological ecosystems. What happens to the contaminants after impact events? Where and how are the contaminants dispersed in the water column and over what distance? What long-term impacts do the contaminants have on chemical and biological ecosystems? These key questions need to be addressed over large spatial dimensions and over long time frames. This paper describes the initial steps of the development of an autonomous robotic sampling platform, deployable for long-term monitoring missions and capable of collecting samples to track contaminant dispersion.