Researchers creating new device to send through waterways to collect data

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:

Combating our water crisis with a sensor.

Researchers are creating a device to send through waterways to collect data.

Normally, we try to avoid getting our gadgets wet. But in this case, that’s the whole point.

“We can basically send it through sort of a storm drain system or through the stream channels,” said Dr. Eban Bean, assistant professor with the agricultural and biological engineering department at UF/IFAS. “And that can give us a lot of really valuable data about what’s happening upstream and along its path.”

University of Florida researchers fit GPS tech, cellular communication and sensors inside a buoy.

It’s called “GatorByte” and it can collect information like temperature, PH and dissolved oxygen in the water.

“These are very fundamental water quality parameters, but they can tell us a lot of about if water quality is shifting,” Bean said.

That information can help researchers locate sources of pollution, whether they be septic tanks, agricultural or stormwater runoff.

“You know, we’d love to be able to do things like nitrates, ammonia, and nutrients,” Bean said. “The technology is still not quite where we need it to be.”

But once it is, they could detect changes in water quality that could cause algal blooms.

“It’s still in the developmental phase, but the way we are trying to develop it is incremental,” explained Piyush Agade, a doctoral student at UF/IFAS’ agricultural and biological engineering department.

GatorByte could be available to the public as early as the end of this year.

In the future, the researchers hope local governments could use GatorByte to gather information in their own waterways. The devices costs around $1,500.

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