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CREST Research Buoys

In our mission to address the complex issues of environmental contamination in South Florida, the NSF CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment (CAChE) at Florida International University features cutting-edge technology in contaminant detection, monitoring, and analysis. Central to this are our three CREST Research Buoys, which were specially-designed to be deployed in both shallow freshwater ecosystems and near-shore marine environments. Each buoy features an array of high-tech sensors used to collect data on general water quality and can be set to take measurements as frequently as every five minutes.

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The buoys' water quality parameters include:

  • Temperature
  • Conductivity (for salinity)
  • Dissolved oxygen
  • pH
  • Turbidity
  • Chlorophyll
  • Directional flow speed
All sensors are maintained automatically by a self-cleaning wiper system that prevents biofouling and allows for long-term deployment. Additionally, the buoys are equipped with a set of solar panels which recharge the central battery and can extend sampling periods to several months. Data collected can be automatically transmitted via cellular uplink every 15 minutes, making the information available in nearly real-time to our CREST CAChE team and the general public.

First Deployment

In response to a red tide outbreak on the southeast coast of Florida, our first CREST Research Buoy was deployed at Haulover Inlet near FIU's Biscayne Bay Campus. Since October 2018, the buoy has been monitoring water quality through regular measurements: temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and chlorophyll which can help to indicate potential algal blooms. At the same time the buoy records directional flow rates, to get a sense of where potential outbreaks may be coming from and where they may be headed. All data collected is updated online every hour and is available for public viewing. 


Second Deployment 

Our second CREST research buoy was deployed in early January 2019 in a Coral Gables canal, by students Matt Smith and Marbelys Garriga who proposed this project. The buoy is monitoring water quality and flow in an urban waterway to compare normal conditions with extremes, such as during heavy rain events and high tides. The data collected is automatically updated online every hour and is available for public viewing here. Check it out!
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Third Deployment 

In response to local concerns, our third CREST buoy has been deployed at “Heart Harbor” in Tavernier, Florida. The buoy will monitor general water quality with measurements taken every fifteen minutes. Of particular interest are dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels, after a species of toxic algae was recently confirmed following a fish kill in the harbor. This effort is thanks to the awareness and actions of local citizens, along with FIU researchers at the Institute of Water and Environment who responded by collecting samples for early analysis. You can check out the buoy data here.