For the last three years, the arrival of spring for Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab has been signaled by the presence of a bright yellow buoy in the waters just off Gibraltar Island near Put-in-Bay.
Thanks to a generous donation, Ohio Sea Grant researchers will deploy a second buoy to monitor Lake Erie water quality in a new location. Ohio Sea Grant Research Coordinator Dr. Justin Chaffin plans to station a new buoy just north of Huron, Ohio.
This new buoy will play a key role in a recently funded Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative study to assess environmental factors that contribute to the development of saxitoxin, a neurotoxin produced by some algae and cyanobacteria. Chaffin and his assistants will collect and analyze water samples from the Sandusky sub-basin, where the new buoy will reside.
“Knowing when a bloom is out there based on the buoy data will make our sample collection much more efficient for those experiments,” Chaffin said.
Fondriest Environmental, an environmental monitoring technology company based in Fairborn, Ohio, donated the first buoy in 2013 and the second in December 2017.
“We want to ensure they have the tools they need,” said Steve Fondriest, president of Fondriest Environmental. “If the buoys can provide education and offer research scientists the ability to collect more data on the lake, that would be great.”
Both buoys measure total algae biomass, blue green algae biomass, dissolved oxygen, water temperature, pH, and water clarity. One key difference that Chaffin is excited about is that the new buoy has an exposed electrical system, making it easier to service if there are any glitches.
“We’re thankful for Fondriest’s donation to Stone Lab. Over the last four years the data we’ve gathered from the buoy they previously donated has brought incalculable value to our program both as an educational tool for college students and school groups and as the piece of research equipment it was designed to be,” said Ohio Sea Grant Director Dr. Chris Winslow.
“This new buoy will increase our ability to assess the health of Lake Erie and inform future decisions about nutrient loading and harmful algal blooms.”