Beaver Island Boat Company's Emerald Isle ferry travels across Lake Michigan between Charlevoix and Beaver Island up to four times a day during busy summer months. Along with transporting passengers, vehicles and goods, those hours are now critical for painting a picture of the recent changes in the Great Lakes.
Researchers from CMU's Institute for Great Lakes Research have installed a one-of-a-kind monitoring system that collects data on climate change factors and water quality issues in the Great Lakes.
VIEW DATA IN REAL TIME HERE
Data collected when the vessel is NOT underway is not accurate and should not be used. System is only operational AFTER the vessel has left port, though erroneous data is frequently collected and viewable after reaching port.
In addition to the monitoring equipment, an automated system two meters below the surface collects raw water samples up to 14 times per trip. The samples are refrigerated after they are collected and returned to the lab for analyses.
This mechanism will help scientists get a comprehensive look at changes in the lake's ecosystem, allowing them to be more proactive rather than reactive.
The monitoring system is the only one of its kind operating in the Great Lakes collecting such a wide range of data.
Water samples are returned to CMU's Biological Station on Beaver Island, where they are analyzed by students and researchers.
Researchers are interested in a variety of parameters, such as water temperature, phosphorous and nitrogen concentrations. Phosphorous, outlined in the Clean Water Act as a major pollutant of the Great Lakes, has caused an increase in harmful algal blooms, one of numerous cause-and-effect changes in the ecosystem.
Even small changes can create large problems for species in these waters, says Uzarski. "Increased levels of phosphorous and nitrogen are responsible for the nuisance algal blooms we see affecting city water systems more and more," he said. "These have impacts on human health, the environment and the economy."