UWindsor team to monitor harmful algal blooms in real time

Real-Time Aquatic Ecosystem Observation Network
Katelynn Johnson is director of the Real-Time Aquatic Ecosystem Observation Network (RAEON), which will provide monitoring sensors to analyze algal blooms in Lake Erie. Photo Credit: RAEON

University of Windsor researchers are using a $1 million grant to deploy real-time monitoring sensors into Lake Erie to understand more about harmful algal blooms and learn to predict their development.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Alliance grant, awarded to the cross-disciplinary team of researchers from UWindsor’s Faculties of Science and Engineering, will utilize sensor technology from the Real-Time Aquatic Ecosystem Observation Network (RAEON) for the first time in freshwater.

Slocum glider
A Teledyne Slocum glider. Photo Credit: Teledyne Marine

Using real-time buoys and sensor suites on Slocum Gliders from Teledyne Webb Research, researchers can go deep into Lake Erie to understand how nutrients, temperature, and other factors lead to the development of harmful algal blooms (HABs) and oxygen-depleted water that can affect drinking water treatment processes.

The data collected will help the UWindsor team to create early warning indicators and water security models, according to a statement from the university.

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“Real-time data will be sent directly to our cellphones and lab computers. We need this level of data collection to finally understand what is really going on,” announced Dr. Aaron Fisk, project lead and Science Director of RAEON, headquartered at UWindsor.

Rupp Carriveau, professor and director of the Environmental Energy Institute at UWindsor, said that the team will be designing optimal water treatment systems that “rapidly react to the early HABs warnings — something no one has done before.” Carriveau’s engineering team will use hydraulic models and specialized knowledge of the regional water grid to develop emergency management scenarios.

Researchers will use the data to identify possible climate change triggers that lead to HABs, such as proliferation of algal species resistant to higher temperatures.

The project includes three industry partners; Union Water Supply System, InnovaSea, and Pro-Oceanus, along with researchers from Trent University, Queen’s University and the University of Toronto. RAEON is funded by a $15.9 million grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.

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