It’s time for water-quality experts across the region to synchronize the instruments that are part of Lake Erie’s early-warning system before the team splits up to deploy the technology.
Scientists and water treatment plant operators throughout the region are visiting The University of Toledo Lake Erie Center in Oregon this week to make sure equipment that measures water quality throughout algal bloom season is ready to be deployed in buoys and treatment plants across Lake Erie.
The collaboration helps to ensure conformity of data coming from the probes over the next few months.
Media are invited at 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 4, as partners in the early-warning buoy network do the calibration. Those partners include researchers from UToledo, Ohio State University and Bowling Green State University, as well as water treatment plant operators in Cleveland, Toledo, Oregon, Defiance, Elyria, Avon, Painesville, Sandusky, Lorain, Ottawa and Huron. LimnoTech, YSI and Fondriest Environmental are companies providing technology support.
A UToledo alumnus who now works for Ann Arbor-based LimnoTech as an environmental scientist is organizing the calibration event. Ken Gibbons graduated from UToledo in 2015 with a master’s degree in biology.
“The first calibration event for Lake Erie sondes occurred seven years ago when I was a graduate student at The University of Toledo,” Gibbons said. “I’m excited to come back to the Lake Erie Center and coordinate this effort. I grew up in Toledo, so it is especially satisfying to assist the area drinking water plants.”
UToledo’s water quality and sensor buoy annually rides the waves off the shore of the Maumee Bay State Park Lodge and Conference Center in Oregon. It is part of the Great Lakes Observing System’s early-warning network of buoys throughout the western Lake Erie basin that provides live data vital in the assessment of harmful algal blooms.
The buoys are equipped with what is called the YSI EXO sonde, a yellow and blue instrument consisting of several probes to measure various water quality parameters, including how much blue-green algae are present, water temperature, clarity, oxygen levels, turbidity and pH.
“We go out on our research vessel at least once a week for sampling throughout the summer, but the buoys are out there all the time,” said Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, professor of ecology and director of the UToledo Lake Erie Center, who has studied harmful algal blooms for two decades. “Even when it’s too rough for boats to be on the lake, the buoys can alert if something is developing or changing quickly.”
Bridgeman’s laboratory is one of the key locations for tracking and providing early warning of harmful algal blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie.