The University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS) is hosting an aquatic sensor workshop, September 12-13, 2011, at its Douglas Lake campus. “Freshwater Advanced Aquatic Sensor Workshop: Sensors, Platforms and Data Management” will highlight the latest in aquatic sensor technology and critical aspects of the sensor life cycle. 

“We are entering the age of automation in sensing the aquatic environment,” explains Guy Meadows, University of Michigan Professor of Physical Oceanography and research partner with the Alliance for Coastal Technologies (ACT). “Instrumentation has become more advanced, more reliable and able to cover broader ranges of capabilities. Aquatic sensors can now be left in place to collect months of data that could not previously be gathered by human hands.”

Says Susan Hendricks, Murray State University Senior Research Scientist and workshop co-organizer, “Water is a substance on which we are dependent, but it is also an environment in which we cannot live. Aquatic sensors provide the windows, eyes and ears, to this medium.”

For the workshop, leading scientists and engineers will showcase innovative new hardware and train participants in the deployment and operation of aquatic sensor technologies. 

According to Kyle Kwaiser, UMBS Data Manager and conference co-organizer, “The technology is developing rapidly. Yet training opportunities for researchers and graduate students are far too rare."  

This workshop is an attempt to address that gap. Demonstrations of software that imports and manages sensor data are scheduled. Representatives from four sensor manufacturers will instruct participants in the use of the new private-sector technology.  

From the public-sector side, Meadows will demonstrate U-M Ocean Engineering Laboratory’s advanced sensor platforms. Among these are the remote-controlled, lake bottom mapping “BathyBoat,” the Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) that “fly” a programmed path through the water while taking measurements, the autonomous station-keeping observation platform (the “Flying Fish”),  and Remotely Operated  underwater Vehicles (ROVs).  

UMBS signaled its leadership in aquatic sensor technology last fall. In September, 2010, it deployed a sensor buoy into Douglas Lake.  The buoy monitors 17 different air and water parameters and streams the data to a website every ten minutes. “It adds in an autonomous fashion to the over 100 years of manually-collected data on Douglas Lake,” says Meadows. The buoy is the only one among 8 in the region to be situated in a body of water other than the Great Lakes.  

Soon after launching the buoy, the Biological Station hosted the Organization of Biological Field Stations’ annual meeting. The theme of the meeting was “Advanced Sensor Networks for Field Stations.” One plenary and several breakout sessions were dedicated to sensor technologies. From that meeting, it was a natural next step from to host a more extended workshop.

Hendricks says, “UMBS has sophisticated computing capabilities, a new buoy equipped with aquatic sensors on Douglas Lake, and connectivity with other lake research institutions through the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network [GLEON]. It’s uniquely positioned to provide hands-on experiences to students, researchers, and teachers interested in using these new technologies to advance lake science and education.”

The workshop is funded by the National Science Foundation. It is the first formal collaboration between the GLEON and ACT.