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 Finding plastic litter from afar
19.11.2018 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

nachricht Despite government claims, orangutan populations have not increased. Call for better monitoring
06.11.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

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: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New materials: Growing polymer pelts

19.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

Earthquake researchers finalists for supercomputing prize

19.11.2018 | Information Technology

Controlling organ growth with light

19.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>