Researchers from North Carolina State University are developing a cost-effective electronic monitoring system that will enable researchers to advance our understanding of critical coastal ecosystems by allowing users to track water-quality data from these waters in real time, thanks to support from a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.
"Our goal is to make it cheap and easy to monitor environmental conditions in the Chesapeake Bay, the sounds of North Carolina and other coastal waterways," says Dr. Alex Dean, associate professor of electronic and computer engineering (ECE) at NC State and primary investigator on the project. "Existing technology is costly to implement on a large scale, and is not easy to use. As a result, environmental officials currently do not have much access to real-time environmental data."
The researchers, who are working on the project with the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC), are developing inexpensive, wireless sensors that can be anchored to the sea bed, moored to buoys or towed behind vessels to collect data. Dean explains that those sensors will send the data they collect to a centralized server that will "make it available, essentially immediately, online." The sensors will collect a variety of data, including water temperature, salt levels in the water and water clarity.
The data collection system should help track environmental health, and help scientists answer a number of ecological research questions. For example, the team is planning to incorporate sensors into its network that can be used to measure oyster activity. Researchers can then compare the oyster activity to data on environmental quality to see what conditions are most conducive to oyster growth.
"We are very pleased to be teaming with NC State researchers on this important venture," says Vicki Paulas, CBEC's restoration manager. "This project offers CBEC a significant opportunity to test cost-effective technique
|Contact: Matt Shipman|
North Carolina State University