Current Research

Monitoring Algae in Lake O Using an Autonomous Sailboat

Feb 25, 2019

Nav2 photo by ANDREW QUINTANA-WLRN

As most of our listeners are well-aware, Southwest Florida recently experienced two severe harmful algal blooms: the red tide along the coast, and the toxic blue-green algae in the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary. Both blooms were at least partly fueled by nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee, but there is no doubt that the lake was the source of the toxic blue-green algae. Now, there’s a new research effort underway to monitor algae in Lake Okeechobee using a self-driving, solar-powered, data-collecting sailboat called Nav2. It was used in 2017 to collect information on the red tide bloom, and now it’s been launched in Lake Okeechobee to collect data there.

Joining us to explain how it works, what kinds of information it collects, and what researchers hope to do with all that data is Dr. Jordan Beckler, he is assistant research professor, and Director of the Geochemistry and Geochemical Sensing Lab at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. We’re also joined by one of the people who invented this small self-sailing research vessel, Scott Duncan, President of Navocean.

Listen to the WGCU radio broadcast


Navocean and Turner Designs are teaming up with FAU/HBOI researcher Dr. Jordon Beckler to demonstrate mobile fluorometer data collection in support of new techniques to research Red Tide and related Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs)

Navocean and Turner Designs are teaming up with FAU/HBOI researcher Dr. Jordon Beckler to demonstrate mobile fluorometer data collection in support of new techniques to research Red Tide and related Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) . Field test missions are underway, including on Lake Okeechobee and in The Banana River Lagoon. The most recent 3 day test on the Banana River Lagoon was intended to demonstrate data collection for the study of “Brown Tide” algae blooms in the Banana River Lagoon known for creating fish kills from severe hypoxia events. During this 3 day mission a strong storm system blew over with driving rain and winds over 50 mph. This type of disruptive weather event can stir up the bottom sediments and create large inflows of freshwater runoff into the lagoon. During this storm, Nav2 ASV “Vela” maintained station-holding control and continued survey patterns as the winds diminished.

You can track the mission and data at the GCOOS Galdalf website.

Navocean's Nav2 ASV Vela during launch in 20-25 mph winds

A windy launch of  the Nav2 ASV “Vela” from Saturday before a 50+ mph wind set in. At time of photo, winds were 20-25 mph.

Navocean's Nav2 ASV Vela during launch in 20-25 mph winds

Picking up “Vela” on a calm day after the 50+ mph storm.