Research Buoy Planned for Great Pond.

With the generous support of Colby College, we are planning to deploy a state-of-the-art sampling buoy in Great Pond shortly after ice out in the Spring of 2013.  The availability of inexpensive cellular-based data communication, sophisticated data loggers, and robust sensors for temperature, oxygen, and fluorescence have revolutionized the way scientists measure physical, biogeochemical, and ecosystem processes in lakes.  Lake sampling buoys with integrated sensor chains can sense the lake environment at a temporal resolution of minutes providing real-time metrics for dissolved oxygen, internal mixing, and algal biomass.    This is very interesting science that will tell us a lot about the water quality in Great Pond.   However, the buoy has the potential to be much more that a really cool sensor.   The Great Pond buoy will be designed to directly engage the scientists studying the Belgrade Lakes with watershed communities to develop a lake buoy system (hardware and display) that serves as the communities sentinel of ecosystem health.   The buoy system will tell the community practical things like the surface temperature of the lake.  It will also tell us about the dynamics of algae growth throughout the summer season –  both good and bad blooms.   Of particular interest in Great Pond, the oxygen sensors will report on the dissolved oxygen concentrations in surface and deep water of the lake.   The decrease in dissolved oxygen in the deep water of Great Pond is a growing concern because low oxygen water does not support cold water fish (trout and salmon) and promotes the release of phosphorus from the sediments.

An active website is one of the most effective tools at channeling stakeholder attention to pages communicating the broader conservation messaging of our conservation partners. A central question in this work is how does accessibility, speed, and type of scientific data inform, modify, and motivate behavior to preserve the lake?  In this way the buoy will serve as an experiment to test how the delivery of lake water quality information creates and sustains community interest in the water quality of Great Pond.

Over the winter months Whitney King, Denise Bruesewitz, and Belgrade Lakes team will purchase the buoy, sensors, and communications gear.   Hardware and software testing will happen in January.   Look for the new Buoy at the Maine Lakes Resource Center in March waiting for the ice to leave Great Pond.

Look forward to communications from the MLRC on spring lectures on the buoy system, a contest to name the buoy, and a community working group to help develop the public “dashboard”  that will display the buoy data in format that is informative and engaging to the community.  To give you an idea of what is planned, check out the weather dashboard from the MLRC.

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