Researchers are testing out a new device that helps gather water quality information in real-time. The sensor will measure nutrients that can fuel algal blooms.
To better understand our waterways you have to go beneath the surface. And thanks to a device from an organization called the ‘Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System,’ scientists at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation don’t have to.
A.J. Martignette is the marine laboratory manager at SCCF. He said, “We have this new nutrient sensor that we’re doing a one-year test on.”
They call the sensor “WIZ,” or water in situ analyzer, and scientists are seeing how the device works in tandem with its river, estuary, and coastal observation network already in place.
“It means that the sensor lives in the water while it’s working and it takes a sample directly while in the water,” Martignette explained. “If you have more inorganic nitrogen in the water, oftentimes you’ll see phytoplankton or algae grow out of control, so what we want to do is we want to measure that continuously and as many places as we can.”
While it does take some manpower to pull it out of the water for maintenance, the idea is it can stay underwater collecting data on inorganic nitrogen for around a month.
The data is collected continuously every two hours and it’s already getting results.
Marine Laboratory Director Dr. Eric Milbrandt added, “At high tide, when the Gulf of Mexico water’s closer to the sensor, nitrogen, nitrate levels are near the detection limit, or zero, and then at low tide is the, all the runoff the discharges and so on, the nitrogen levels are elevated, so the nitrogen, the nitrate is coming from the runoff off the land and the discharges.”
SCCF’s goal is to field test the “WIZ” for a year before officially deciding if it will make it a part of its RECON Sensor Array system.