There is little doubt that rising global temperatures and human activity are having very negative effects on the planet as a whole.
Higher water temperatures in ponds and lakes may reduce the abundance and distribution of wild fish stocks by reducing water quality. A changing habitat can also aid in the growth of new pathogens and allow intrusive species to thrive in an area that is not there native range.
Agricultural run off from the use of fertilizers has already caused increased levels of nitrate and phosphates in the water. Along with rising temperatures these fertilizers aid in the growth of blue green algae (cyanobacteria) in ponds, lakes and any area with standing water. One area that is seeing the effect is fish farms in the south eastern United States. Blue green algae produce geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol that affect the flavor of pond grown fish. Typically the off flavor of the fish is not detected until harvest. Once the off flavor is detected the cyanobacteria is often treated with copper sulfate and the farmer has to continue caring for the fish until the off flavor has purged from the fish. The delayed harvest cost fish farmers millions of dollars yearly. If the cyanobacteria can be detected early the treatment can start earlier decreasing the delayed harvest saving the fish farmer’s money.
Along with cyanobacteria, pathogens can cause a threat to public health. Detecting these pathogens can allow an early warning of a growing threat to the health of a population near the pathogens source.
Nothing knows the pond like what lives in the pond.
Pond Skater is an aquatic solar powered robot designed to roam the surface of the water. Pond Skater will use two cameras and a color enhancing program to look for water anomalies on the surface of the pond. Cyanobacteria have a distinct color signature that can be detected with a camera and reflected sun light. Every chemical element as well as pathogens and bacteria have their own unique chemical signature. Below the surface Pond Skater has a camera based optical spectrometer that can continuously monitor the water for the chemical signatures of a variety of pathogens, bacteria as well as chemicals such as nitrate and phosphate levels.
Groups of Pond Skaters will form a mesh network to send data to the shore allowing the health of a pond or lake to be consciously monitors in real time.