For most humans, mayflies seem like a nuisance, hovering over the waterways as we try to enjoy them. However, for anyone hoping to monitor the health of watersheds, mayflies are important aquatic species—and now, a digital version of the mayfly is helping some scientists keep an eye on the water. Research scientist Dr. Scott Ensign, who serves as Assistant Director of the Stroud Water Research Center, spoke to EM about how the digital mayfly technology developed.
Time is of the essence when it comes to tracking algal blooms, and people everywhere are looking for solutions. In Florida, scientists from Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) recently trialed a solar-powered, algae-tracking sail boat developed by Navocean, Inc. Dr. Jordon Beckler of Florida Atlantic University (FAU) directs HBOI’s Geochemistry and Geochemical Sensing Lab and spoke to EM about the trials and the boat.
For as long as scientists have been studying the ocean, they have been limited by a lack of power. However, recent work from researchers at the University of Washington (UW) offers a promising new way to harvest energy from waves at sea. UW associate professor of mechanical engineering Brian Polagye spoke to EM about a recent project that used wave energy to power one of UW’s Adaptable Monitoring Packages, or AMPs.
To conduct behavioral research on aquatic species especially invertebrates with softer bodies, tagging and tracking has been a persistent challenge. This is particularly true for species which are often elusive in the first instance. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution research assistant Seth Cones spoke to EM about recent testing of a new sensor and tagging technology that might make this challenge a bit easier.
Even at low doses, emerging contaminants can pose health risks for humans, including disruption of the endocrine system. These emerging contaminants include hormones, personal care products, perfluorinated compounds and volatile organics, and pharmaceuticals. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Laura Bexfield presented her work on hormones and pharmaceuticals in groundwater at the 2018 Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) Annual Meeting, and more recently corresponded with EM to discuss the research.
For the past two years, the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office has been partnering with Fondriest and NexSens to phase out their AXYS data buoy systems with NexSens CB-1250 data buoy systems. Several members of the Fondriest team recently visited and participated in a buoy deployment on the Chesapeake Bay, and Byron F. Kilbourne, an oceanographer at the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office and liaison for the deployment, spoke to EM about the office, their team, and the buoy change.
In 2014, the Toledo Water Crisis left about 500,000 people without access to safe drinking water for several days. Since that time, the city has been working hard to combat harmful algal blooms (HABs), and so has Dr. Jason Huntley of the University of Toledo. Dr. Huntley spoke to EM about his recent work searching for bacteria that occur naturally in water and are safe for humans—but not for microcystins that cause HABs.
Since the early 1990s, officials in southwestern Ohio have been working to improve the water quality and clarity in Acton Lake. Local farming operations had been producing large amounts of sediment that were draining into the lake’s watershed and filling up the lake. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) instructed local farmers in conservation tillage, which involves plowing the soil less frequently to reduce sediment runoff.
By 2016, tens of thousands of Americans were dying with opioids as the primary cause of death. This has prompted officials to search for new ways to intervene, producing a need to monitor and track how and where people become addicted to opioids. However, due to legal risk and social stigma, self-reported opioid use is not always accurate, leaving public health officials hungry for good data. Moreover, the typical data sources used to monitor community drug use have serious time lags that hamper real-time decision-making.
Back when Dr. James Engman, a biologist, was department chair of Henderson State University‘s biology department in 2005, he got a call from the president of the university. Some 1951 alumni wanted a wish list from the biology department. “That was all I knew,” remarks Dr. Engman in a conversation with EM. “We came up with a list of items, and at the end we just kind of tacked on, ‘But if they really want to make a difference, here’s what we really want,’ and mentioned a field station.
The Buffalo River winds through Northern Arkansas for 150 miles; 135 of which are contained within the Buffalo National River under the care of the National Park Service (NPS). The iconic river is culturally important to the state and region, and that’s part of the reason why United States Geological Survey (USGS) scientists are working hard to determine why 70 miles of the river had algae in it last year.
The mission of the Student Drifter Program, initiated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and now administered by the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation (GOMLF), is “to establish scientific partnerships between schools around the region and engage students in activities and communication about ocean climate science.” NOAA oceanographer James P. Manning spoke with EM about the program and how it benefits students and the environment.
Less than four hours away from Seattle and Vancouver is a different, less urban sort of gem: the University of Washington (UW) Friday Harbor Laboratories (FHL). In the midst of the Salish Sea, FHL is a truly unique setting for marine research. Director Billie Swalla spoke with EM about this biological field station set up for exploring the rich and varied ecosystems of the San Juan Archipelago. “We’re a research unit with the University of Washington, part of the College of the Environment,” explains Dr. Swalla, a biologist.
An independent research facility within the School of Ocean Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) has multidisciplinary research and education in tropical marine biology at the heart of its mission. HIMB is also a world leader in applying new technologies to conservation research into Hawaiʻi’s stunning biodiversity. Dr. Judith D. Lemus, HIMB’s interim director and the co-director of the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa’s graduate program in marine biology, spoke to EM about HIMB.
Sometimes if you want to teach kids about water quality, you just need to wade into the subject—at least, that’s the plan between Schuylkill River Greenways (SRG) and the Stroud Water Research Center (SWRC). Citizen science group project facilitator David Bressler of SWRC and SRG education coordinator Sarah Crothers spoke with EM about the environmental education program between SWRC and The Hill School in the Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area.