On February 11, 2016 an oceanographic observing buoy was deployed in Bellingham Bay, funded by the Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction (CMOP), through its education partner the University of Washington and in collaboration with Western Washington University and the Northwest Indian College. The University of Washington worked with Western Washington, the Northwest Indian College and the Lummi National Resources Department to determine the location and design of the buoy. The Lummis named the buoy “Se’lhaem,” for an island that was once near the mouth of the Nooksack River.
The buoy contains sensors to monitor the weather and ocean conditions and a controller to transmit the data back to land for real-time monitoring. On the tower of the buoy there is a Vaisala anemometer and Soundnine compass that together provide wind speed and direction as well as a Gill MetPak Pro weather station that provides barometric pressure, air temperature, humidity and dew point. Just below the surface of the water (~0.5 m) a Sea-Bird Water Quality Monitor measures conductivity, temperature, pressure, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, chlorophyll and colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) and a Sea-Bird SeaFET sensor measures pH. At approximately 17.5 m below the surface a Sea-Bird 37 IMP-ODO measures conductivity, temperature, pressure and dissolved oxygen and a Sea-Bird SeaFET sensor measures pH.
The buoy provides real-time data through the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS) and gives students hands-on experience with oceanographic instrumentation and observing systems.
The goals of CMOP are to transcend traditional scientific, educational and societal boundaries in order to understand complex issues in coastal margins such as watersheds, estuaries and tidal areas.
- The buoy can be used in combination with other buoys in Puget Sound and off the Washington Coast to better understand the spatial variations and extent of changes impacting the region.
- The buoy provides data to aid researchers studying issues threatening marine life such as hypoxia (low oxygen), ocean acidification and algae blooms.
- Provide data needed to understand fluctuations in harvested species in the bay such as Dungeness crab and clams.
- What causes the fluctuations observed in harvested species such as Dungeness crab and clams?
- What drives the periods of hypoxia, low oxygen, in the bay that are harm to fish and potentially crab?
- How does flow from the Nooksack River impact the bay?