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A Very Smart Kayak ...

TitleA Very Smart Kayak ...
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsRathmell K, Wilkin M, Welle P, Mattson T, Baptista AM
Journal TitleCurrents

Monitoring the Columbia River estuary (CRE) is no easy task, as CMOP's field staff knows well. The center maintains an extensive field network (Green et al, 2013), which involves observations from sensors deployed on platforms such as docks, bridge piles, vessels and gliders. But none of these platforms is ideal for the very shallow environment of Baker Bay with depths from one to five feet. Yet, measurements across Baker Bay are needed to understand important aspects of function of the estuary, from the timing of summer red water blooms to the cycling of nitrogen and carbon. Mesodinium rubrum, which is the organism that makes up the bloom, has a red pigment that is visible when the organism is present in large numbers. We know that the non-toxic organism enters the CRE from the ocean, and that the bloom starts in the shallow lateral bays such as Baker Bay. (Herfort et al. 2011)

Enter serendipity. A doctoral student invited a scientist from Intel Corporation - and a fellow kayaking instructor - to give a seminar at CMOP about high-performance computing. Free-wheeling post-seminar discussions led to the idea of installing a sophisticated sensor package in a kayak and towing the unmanned vessel from another kayak during frequent outings across the bay.