Real-Time Data Collection to Help Protect Drinking Water Sources

Researchers retrieving a real-time buoy for the season in the Western Basin of Lake Erie

This project will help scientists better understand and predict the development of harmful algal blooms (HABs) using real-time data. The project team will deploy real-time continuous monitoring instruments in Lake Erie — the first time this equipment has been used this way in freshwater — to better understand how nutrients, temperature, and other factors lead to the development of HABs and hypoxia, oxygen-depleted water. 

To collect the data needed, the team will use real-time buoys; Slocum gliders – a bright yellow, torpedo-shaped autonomous underwater vehicle that collects data where buoys are impractical; and eDNA detectors, which collect DNA to determine whether harmful or rare species of algae are present in the water. Data will be collected and uploaded continuously via cellular service to laboratory computers.

The information also will help identify other triggers that lead to HABs that may be related to climate change, such as proliferation of algal species that are more resistant to higher temperatures. Engineers will then use this information to develop early warning models that will inform water security and help develop more efficient facilities. Once the process is refined for Lake Erie, it can be set up and used in other Great Lakes and in freshwater systems across the world. The decision support systems developed will be shared with water quality suppliers and other stakeholders.

A Slocum Glider test deployment in the Western Basin of Lake Erie

The project includes three private partners, UWSS, InnovaSea, and Pro-Oceanus, and researchers from Trent University, Queen’s University, and the University of Toronto. Environment and Climate Change Canada will participate to support the development of management and policy for freshwater ecosystems.

For more information, please contact Dr. Aaron Fisk

Further reading:

Other RAEON Projects


Inland Lakes

Lake Erie

Huron-Erie Corridor

St. Lawrence River

Lake Superior

Lake Ontario

Lake Huron

Lake Michigan

Projects to Come

Rideau Canal Waterway

Lake Winnipeg

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    Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research
    University of Windsor
    2990 Riverside Drive West
    Windsor, Ontario, N9C 1A2