by Jo Foden, Cefas, UK
Scientists from the UK’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas) have just returned from a short survey on the RV Cefas Endeavour, during which they serviced a Cefas SmartBuoy (http://www.cefas.defra.gov.uk/our-services/monitoring-and-mapping/autonomous-monitoring/smartbuoys.aspx) at the Warp Anchorage site in the Thames. SmartBuoys are autonomous, ‘intelligent’, automated, multi-parameter recording platforms used to collect marine environmental data. This particular recovery was of the 100th deployment at this site, which has been active since November 2000.
The Cefas team deploys buoys at key sites allaround the UK coast. This particular buoy has been out for just over a month, which is normal for the season. In winter, SmartBuoys may be deployed for 10–12 weeks as the bio-fouling of optical sensors occurs more slowly during the winter months.
The instruments and sensors mounted below the waterline on the Warp SmartBuoy measure most of the parameters required for plankton growth, with light and nutrients being the most important. Complementary measurements of suspended solids and oxygen are made simultaneously. Above the waterline a navigation light, satellite and GPS aerials, radar reflector and a secondary satellite tracking unit are visible (Fig. 1).
SmartBuoys are moored in five key locations in the coastal waters of England and Wales, as part of work undertaken on behalf of Defra. The data are used in national and international assessments of water quality. Every two hours the most recent data from all of these buoys are sent back to Cefas by satellite telemetry. They may subsequently be viewed online athttp://cefasmaps.defra.gov.uk/smartbuoyweb/StaticMapPage.asp. Data are also used in satellite imagery validation and are sent to the EMECO observatory site (www.emecodata.net) where they are used to carry out assessments of marine environment for key policies, such as European Directives and international protocols (e.g. OSPAR).