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Real-Time Coastal Monitoring System in Development

Sensors in coastal waters (NCSU)

(North Carolina State University)

Researchers from North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh are developing an electronic monitoring system to help advance understanding of coastal ecosystems by allowing users to track water-quality data from these waters in real time. The project was funded by National Science Foundation and National Security Agency.

The NCSU team is working on the project with the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center to develop inexpensive, wireless sensors — similar to those pictured right — that can be anchored to the sea bed, moored to buoys or towed behind vessels to collect data. The sensors will collect data on water temperature, salt levels in the water, and water clarity, and transmit the data to a centralized server to be made available live online.

The system will provide data for researchers, but the data will also have commercial implications. For example, the team plans to include sensors 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.

The researchers say they will adapt inexpensive, off-the-shelf sensors to withstand the aquatic environment. They are also making open source all of the hardware and software designs, so that the system can be duplicated anywhere. The team plans to begin testing sensors in North Carolina waters in the winter of 2010, and hope to have a working model system in place by spring of 2011.

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