If you have been out on the lower bay the last few weeks you may have noticed two additional yellow buoys in the water. These buoys are set up to monitor weather conditions as well as the quality of the water.
“This project with the buoys is all about understanding changes in water quality in real time. In particular, trying to understand under what conditions toxic algal blooms form in lower Green Bay” says Todd Miller, a scientist with UW-Milwaukee who launches and maintains the buoys in Green Bay.
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The scientists at UW-Milwaukee partner with NEW Water along with UW-Green Bay to get manual samples from the lower bay to help understand the algal blooms. The lower bay is a prime spot for these blooms to occur.
“Lake Michigan is a big blue cold water body and it just never warms up fast enough for the algae to grow. These algae like warmer water conditions, so lower Green Bay is good for that, it warms up quickly and is very shallow,” says Miller.
The source of nutrients that often lead to the algal blooms comes from runoff on agricultural fields. Work is being done to help limit the amount of runoff into the waterways. The next step in this research to predict when the blooms could occur by getting live data of conditions in the bay.
“Can I warn people ahead of time that there is going to be an algal bloom or the likelihood of an algal bloom on a particular day is high? So that’s what we’re trying to do with the buoys is we’re trying to give a continuous measure of water quality conditions that will at least give us an indication of what’s happening now.”
Now that the buoys have been up and running for a few years collecting data, how far away are we from using that data to be used in models to help predict algal blooms?
“So we have some preliminary models based on 2018 and 2019 data and for 2020 we’re going to be running those models as if they are live forecasts to predict algal toxin levels. I’m not going to release the data to the public yet. We need to make sure it’s correct, but those models were calibrated based on 2018 and 2019 data and now we’re going to run them live in 2020 and see how they do” says Miller.
Who will the models be helpful the most and who will use them?
“The city of Green Bay is hoping to bring back to Bay Beach and really revitalize that area and we’d like to see that occur. It would be a good economic boost to the city, but at the same time we want to make sure people are safe. So, we hope our forecasting data will be useful to the city and of course we are working with the DNR to implement those early warning procedures.”
If you would like to monitor the conditions on the bay the links to both buoys are provided here: Green Bay East Buoy and Green Bay West Buoy The buoys provide data such as water temperature, wind speed and direction, as well as different types of algae present in the water. There are also cameras on the buoys that update so you can see the conditions out on the water.
Funding to maintain the buoys is limited, so if you enjoy using this data and would like to provide a donation you can find get information on how to do so by emailing Todd Miller at email@example.com