Grand Valley research buoy now collecting data in Muskegon Lake

The Muskegon Lake research buoy is in place and collecting data.
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The Muskegon Lake research buoy is in place and collecting data.
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State-of-the-art environmental sensors measuring weather and water quality on a Grand Valley State University monitoring buoy in Muskegon Lake have been deployed for the summer season, and the unit has started transmitting near real-time data for public use over the internet.  

The weather data, including temperature, wind speed and direction, water temperature, and other readings, are useful for pleasure boaters, fishermen, and anyone who plans to visit the lake.  Water quality sensors measure over a dozen parameters including temperature, oxygen, nutrients, light, pH, conductivity, algal pigments, bacterial pigments, and current speed and direction. 

While this data stream is part of a larger Grand Valley research project funded by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, mariners, fishermen, and anyone interested in weather and water data from Muskegon Lake can access the information. The buoy system sends weather and water data every 5 and 15 minutes, respectively, to a computer at Grand Valley’s Annis Water Resources Institute where it’s captured and sent to a variety of sources on the internet.

The project serves three main purposes: research, education, and outreach.  Researchers are using the buoy data to better understand the dynamics of the lake ecosystem, and determine how the lake responds to significant weather events, annual weather patterns, and long-term climate changes. A primary focus of these efforts is to improve lake’s beneficial use impairments identified by the EPA.  

Analyzing the various pieces of information from the lake allows Grand Valley researchers to better identify trends and patterns in the way the lake behaves. Instead of relying on a significantly smaller data set from less frequent seasonal and fair-weather boat trips on the lake, patterns of ecosystem change can be identified and tracked using consistent and plentiful information.

Bopi Biddanda, principal investigator on the research project, says having continuous incoming data allows a much more comprehensive view of what’s happening at various depths in the lake, which helps with education. Students at Grand Valley, as well as K-12 students who take research trips on Grand Valley’s research vessels the DJ Angus and the WG Jackson, will use the buoy data to compare to the results they get on the ship.

Outreach is also key to the project. The data streams continuously to the web for public use, and for use in education, where classrooms of students can use data to compliment studies of weather, water chemistry, or biology.

The buoy system will remain in the lake through the fall, when it will be taken out to protect it from a winter freeze.  However, select sensors will be deployed well below the depth of ice formation in the lake through the winter. 

You can find the live data stream through the AWRI website, or via this link: http://www.gvsu.edu/wri/buoy/data-current.htm