Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ferry-linked water monitoring system becomes new model for United States

18.07.2005


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University marine scientists who began monitoring surface water quality in the Neuse River in 2000 say their expanded effort has become a model for continuous ferry-based water assays throughout the nation.



Help and support from the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Ferries and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) deserves much of the credit, the researchers say.

Drs. Hans Paerl and Joseph S. Ramus, professors at the UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke marine laboratories in Morehead City and Beaufort, respectively, and project co-directors, added water quality monitoring to the Swan Quarter-Ocracoke and Cedar Island-Ocracoke ferries in 2001. Their automated project, called FerryMon, keeps watch over and helps protect the unique Pamlico Sound.


Since then, marine scientists in Florida, Massachusetts, Maine and New York and as far away as San Francisco Bay and Washington’s Puget Sound have begun designing, and in some cases already using, comparable systems, said Paerl, William R. Kenan professor at UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences.

"This effort, which we see as vital, has been working flawlessly, and we can’t say enough about how helpful the people with the N.C. DOT’s ferry division and DENR have been," Paerl said. "The monitoring has been especially helpful in keeping state policymakers and scientists informed about what has happened in Pamlico Sound following the recent increase in hurricanes."

Hurricanes Floyd, Dennis and Irene in 1999 stimulated the state’s interest in supporting the research, although Ramus and he began planning the system three years before that, Paerl said. Critical to understanding the state’s coastal ecology is reliable information about human-related changes in water quality, the impact of nutrients flowing into eastern waters, development, pollution, sedimentation and pressures on the shellfish and fin fish industries, which often are overlooked.

Pamlico Sound, the nation’s second largest sound, has "held the distinction of being the largest estuary in the United States about which least is known," Ramus said. "Our program now forms the basis for evaluating and modeling how its ecosystem responds to human and natural impacts."

Endeco/YSI of Marion, Mass., built the FerryMon equipment, which is the most sophisticated of its kind in the world, the scientists said. That instrumentation sits in a box attached to a water intake line in each ferry’s protected sea chest below deck and amidships. Some of the water, needed to cool the ships’ air conditioning machinery, is first diverted to devices that record temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll and geographic position once a minute. A telemetry system involving cell phones enables researchers to collect data at their laboratories for analysis anytime they wish.

Another automated, carousel-like refrigerated device collects water samples to be tested for nutrients, algal pigments, harmful bacteria, dissolved organic matter and suspended solids that cause turbidity.

"The frequency of data collection ensures that we have all-important information on where and when samples were gathered and tested," Ramus said. "We’re also able to study daily, seasonal and yearly variations, cycles and trends and also compare those with effects of weather on algal productivity. All data is being archived in digital form for further analysis."

Goals include learning how excessive naturally produced nutrients and those resulting from agriculture, industry, municipalities and domestic sources affect the environment and providing information needed for long-term water quality management.

"The Neuse River ferry first showed its value in enabling us to get a comprehensive, integrated view of the river," Paerl said. "That’s important because events that occur there, like fish kills and low oxygen, may happen at sites across the estuary that may not be covered by routine monitoring at restricted locations. Trying to establish cause and effect relationships between changes in water quality and those events has been one of the more frustrating aspects of understanding how complex estuarine environments work."

"Hardly anything ever functions the first time you try it, but in this case, it started spitting out data as soon as we turned it on," Paerl said. "It provided the first continuing, comprehensive view of water quality in Pamlico Sound."

A major advantage is cost savings resulting from placing the equipment aboard the ferries, he said. The project operates on about $300,000 a year, which the two scientists say is a real bargain.

"When you look at the cost of doing oceanographic survey work for water quality, even if it’s just in a lake, more than 50 percent of the cost is just the vessel itself," the scientist said. "For us, that part is free."

The recent rash of hurricanes hitting North Carolina, which are expected to continue, have been a wake-up call for state support of water quality monitoring, Ramus said.

"Given the fact that there are predictions of several decades of elevated tropical storm activity, the timing couldn’t be better for continuing to take a serious look at North Carolina’s remarkable water resources in the east," he said. "Our state’s previous commitment to FerryMon was a wise decision."

Among the benefits of continued state support will be leveraging additional federal funding from such agencies as the EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Paerl said. Another is applying the latest technology for remote sensing to assess water quality over thousands of square miles.

"For example, during the summers of 2002 and 2004, because FerryMon allowed calibration of aircraft-based optical instruments, the EPA and NASA targeted Pamlico Sound for large-scale assessments of water quality and marine habitat using a modified U2 reconnaissance plane," Paerl said. "Flights the aircraft made at an altitude of 12 miles enabled scientists to create maps of the amounts of nutrients and sediments in freshwater runoff entering the sound, and the algae responses, including potentially harmful ‘blooms,’ to these sources across most of Pamlico Sound."

David Williamson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unc.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

CCNY physicists master unexplored electron property

26.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Molecular microscopy illuminates molecular motor motion

26.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Large-Mouthed Fish Was Top Predator After Mass Extinction

26.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>