Algae tech gets a winter makeover

Published: Dec. 14, 2017 at 2:55 PM EST
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It may be December, and it may be cold, but Lake Erie is not asleep, and neither are Lake Erie scientists.

They’re measuring and re-calibrating these $20,000 sensors, which measure things like temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and blue-green algae. It's all an effort to make our water safer.

"Looking out at the lake today, it's calm. Maybe it's windy. But there's so much happening," Ed Verhamme said. He's a project scientist at Ann Arbor's LimnoTech, which engineers a wide variety of environmental tech.

From Toledo to Ashtabula and everywhere in between, light-saber looking algae sensors are getting a makeover.

"We’re cleaning, calibrating, and checking all of water quality sensors that have been monitoring Lake Erie," Verhamme said.

"Still working on some of the cordial?" one engineer asks another.

These tubes have their own 'wiper blades' that keep them running through peak algae season.

"But the sonde body just gets covered with mussels, covered with dirt and sediment, with algae," Verhamme said.

"I would like them to be focused on the lake year-round," senior research associate Brenda Snyder said.

Researcher Brenda Snyder knows all about the chemistry of the water… and what’s in Lake Erie.

"So basically the algae have gone to sleep… they’re still there," she said. "They’re just not there in abundance."

That’s why - for this crew - there’s no off-season. Same for year-round tools in the lake.

"They’re not out in the middle of the lake where they will be affected by ice. They’re in the low service, which has a continuous flow of water," Snyder says of why winter sensors don't freeze solid.

After these 20 sensors come in for their winter service, there are still 10 which remain in housings during the winter.