//
you're reading...

Coastal Management

Sailing Solo: An alternative way to monitor harmful algal blooms

What is a Harmful algal bloom?

A Karenia brevis bloom off the coast from Florida. Photo: NOAA

Harmful algal blooms, or HABs for short, come in many different forms. They can form when there are high concentrations of nutrients in the water encouraging phytoplankton to grow rapidly. When the large bloom of phytoplankton dies, bacteria eat up the dying matter and use up oxygen in the surrounding water, causing problems for larger organisms, such as fish, who need oxygen to survive. There are also species of phytoplankton that can produce harmful toxins. These toxins get incorporated into shellfish or fish that can post a threat to human health if ingested. HAB events are increasing in duration and severity. In fact, the HAB that occurred in in Florida from 2017-2018 is considered to be the worst on record. The researchers of this study are developing new methods for understanding these harmful algal blooms such as the one that occurred in Florida.

The Backstory of HABs on Florida’s coasts

Dead fish spell out “HELP” signifying the need for better coastal management practices for HABs. Photo by: Terry Katz

“Disheartening is a good word to describe summer 2018 in southwest Florida.” This line comes from Amy Bennett Williams, a reporter from Fort-Meyers News-Press, who wrote this article about the harmful algal blooms that hit Florida’s coast hard in 2017-2018 and continue to be a problem there. Toxins produced by Karenia brevis were felt from miles when they became transported by wind and caused people to develop asthma-like symptoms from respiratory irritation. Currently, scientists are concerned with the lack of long-term HAB data because this prevents them from being able to predict when a HAB may develop. However, with the development of new technology, like the sailboat vessel described in this research, inexpensive long-term monitoring of HABs may be possible and enable better preparedness for these events in the future.

Monitoring HABs

There are many different methods used to monitor HABs, such as satellites or fixed-location mooring devices. Satellites are inexpensive but they don’t have good temporal or spatial resolution and can be hindered by clouds. Fixed-location, unattended monitoring devices provide good temporal resolution, especially to the species level; however, the installation of enough of these fixed instruments to make it worth it would be expensive. This study focused on the development of a sailboat monitoring platform for detecting HABs in shallow coastal ecosystems. To the authors’ knowledge, all existing long duration autonomous vehicles are not designed to operate effectively in shallow waters less than a few meters depth. These shallow regions are often where HABs occur, so it is important to be able to expand monitoring efforts here. To do this, Mote Marine Lab began a collaboration with Navocean, Inc. to utilize their autonomous sail-powered surface vehicle for Karenia brevis bloom monitoring on the coast of Florida.

The Nav2 vehicle

Deploying the Nav2 vehicle in coastal waters. Photo by: Andrew Quintana/WLRN

The vessel used for HAB monitoring is called the “Nav2” and is powered by renewable resources. It is inexpensive, able to be navigated in shallow waters (<1m) and deployable from shore by a single person. The base cost of the vessel is 75,000, which is cheap for oceanographic monitoring! The Nav2 is easily controlled via an iOS application (on an iPhone or iPad) that can be in constant communication to the vessel using Wifi. The operator only needs to monitor the vessel a few times per day to ensure that the mission goals are being met. 

Using the Nav2 to monitor HABs

There were multiple sensors placed on the Nav2 for monitoring HABSs. A fluorometer was used to monitor the concentration of chlorophyll-a, which is a pigment of phytoplankton that can be used as a proxy for algal presence. This study focused on three deployments of the Vav2 vessel that increased in duration each time. The first deployment was 1 day, then 3 days and then 1 week long. The purpose of these “missions” was to map spatial HAB bloom patterns in localized regions, locate hotspots, and determine bloom patchiness. The Nav2 vessel proved to be a good platform for unattended monitoring of the coastal surface ocean. The vessel’s small size allows it to get close to shore, where many fish and oyster farms are located and susceptible to HABs.

The Nav2 in action! Photo: NavOcean

The Nav2 vessel platform was used for the specific species of K. brevis. These blooms are hard to monitor because they are most destructive nearshore but can be transported shoreward from deeper waters. In addition, cell concentrations of K. brevis can vary by an order of magnitude just a few meters apart, so these blooms are extremely patchy. In the past, monitoring efforts of deeper waters have been conducted with autonomous gliders but these are expensive to maintain and they cannot provide high resolution coastal measurements. Thus, the Nav2 is a great option for monitoring HABs in coastal waters. This was the first demonstration of a reliable mobile platform for wide-area coastal HAB monitoring and this technology is a promising option for the future as HAB events may continue to increase. If we have the ability to fully monitor HAB events in real-time using renewable-energy powered vessels, we may be able to predict when these bloom events will occur, enabling the proper management procedures.

 

Discussion

No comments yet.

Post a Comment

Instagram

  • by oceanbites 4 weeks ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Feeling a bit flattened by the week? So are these summer flounder larvae. Fun fact: flounder larvae start out with their eyes set like normal fish, but as they grow one of their eyes migrates to meet the other and
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com