NCCOS scientists and their partners have completed technical preparations for the first deployment of an Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) in the Great Lakes. The ESP - already in use on the U.S. East and West Coasts - is an autonomous, underwater robot that can detect harmful algal bloom cells and toxins in water samples that it collects and analyzes.
The month-long deployment of the instrument - planned for this fall near the Toledo, Ohio, water intake - will generate near -real time measurements of microcystins, a class of freshwater cyanobacterial toxins that threaten drinking and recreational water supplies. The toxin sensor was developed by NCCOS in collaboration with NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) and the University of Michigan's Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research.
The team conducted a dockside science checkout of the ESP and the microcystin sensor at Ohio State University's Stone Laboratory located on South Bass Island in Lake Erie, with logistical support provided by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. The week-long effort included system hardware and software checks, and sensor validation studies using water pumped from Lake Erie.
The ESP deployment is scheduled to run from mid-September to mid-October, with near-real time microcystin data made available to stakeholders on GLERL's website. Ultimately, these data will be added to predictive models to directly support NOAA's Lake Erie harmful algal bloom forecasts.