Research Buoys

In our mission to address the complex issues of environmental contamination in South Florida, we feature cutting-edge technology in contaminant detection, monitoring and analysis. Central to this are our three Research Buoys, which were specially-designed to be deployed in both shallow freshwater ecosystems and near-shore marine environments. 

The buoys' water quality parameters include:

  • pH
  • Temperature
  • Conductivity (for salinity)
  • Dissolved oxygen
  • Turbidity
  • Chlorophyll
  • Fluorescent Dissolved Organic Matter (fDOM)
  • Directional flow speed

All sensors are maintained automatically by a self-cleaning wiper system that prevents biofouling and allows for long-term deployment. The buoys are equipped with a set of solar panels which recharge the central battery and can extend sampling periods to several months. Data is collected and transmitted via cellular uplink every 15 minutes, making the information available in nearly real-time to our team and the general public.

CREST Buoy 1: Coral Gables Canal

This research buoy was deployed in early January 2019 in a Coral Gables canal, led by students Matt Smith and Marbelys Garriga. The buoy is monitoring water quality and flow in an urban canal system to compare normal conditions with extremes, such as during heavy rain events and king tides.

CREST Buoy 1 Data 

CREST Buoy 2: Little River

Indications of low-oxygen water in nearby canals leading into Biscayne Bay prompted us to deploy a buoy in the Little River. This buoy will play a key role in monitoring the quality and quantity of urban water flowing into the Bay, and can help give early warnings of any potential changes in overall conditions. CREST Buoy 3 is located near the Little River Pocket Park, where FIU teams have collected water samples for contamination in previous years.

CREST Buoy 2 Data

CREST Buoy 3: Miami River

CREST Buoy 3 has been deployed in the Miami River for a second time since 2020, to fill in data gaps for monitoring conditions in Biscayne Bay. The buoy takes meaurements every 15 minutes and automatically transmits all data live for public viewing. Parameters include: temperature, conductivity, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, Chlorophyll, fluorescent dissolved organic matter, as well as the speed and direction of flowing water.

CREST Buoy 3 Data


CREST Buoy 4: North Biscayne Bay

With other CREST buoys deployed in the waterways that feed Biscayne Bay, our next priority was to re-deploy a buoy back into the Bay itself. CREST Buoy 4 is located in the Julia Tuttle basin, just south of North Bay Village where water quality incidents have reocurred since the August 2020 fish kill. There was previously an older-model CREST buoy in this site, and it strenghtens our monitoring network to have one deployed here again. This new-generation buoy - the second in our fleet - gives us eyes on a critical area that has been raising alamrs for conditions throughout the Bay.

CREST Buoy 4 Data

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Royal Castle / Singer Buoy: Biscayne Canal

Funded by Royal Castle Companies and Singer Management, our newest buoy fills a data gap that has been a focus since the 2020 fish kill: the Biscayne Canal. Along with our buoys in the Miami River and Little River, this deployment helps give a more complete picture of the waterways that flow into northern Biscayne Bay. This is also the first of a new buoy model, which measures all the same water quality and flow parameters, but in a more compact and energy-efficient design.

Royal Castle / Singer Buoy Data

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Past Deployments

N Biscayne Bay - North Bay Village

Reports of fish kills and algal blooms in Biscayne Bay (August 2020) prompted us to deploy our water quality buoys in an effort to identify what is happening below the surface. These buoys represent a key part of our efforts to understand devastating impacts on our natural environments when they coincide with our urban systems. CREST Buoy 3 is located in an area of south Biscayne Bay that previously saw very high water temperatures and extrememly low dissolved oxygen readings.

Miami River

The Miami River is considered one of Miami's most polluted waterways, and in March 2020 we deployed a buoy in the River to monitor water quality and provide valuable data to local stakeholders. This buoy represents a key part of our efforts to understand urban waterways and engage with local communities on issues related to water quality.

Heart Harbor

In response to local concerns, a buoy was deployed in June 2019 at “Heart Harbor” in Tavernier, Florida. Of particular interest were dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels, after a species of toxic algae was confirmed following a fish kill in the harbor. This effort was thanks to the awareness and actions of local citizens, along with our researchers who responded by taking samples for early analysis.

Haulover Mangroves

After deploying our first research buoy in 2018 at Haulover Inlet, we later put a another buoy nearby in to draw comparisons in the water quality and flow data in that area. This second site was located in shallower waters close to a mangrove forest south of FIU's Biscayna Bay Campus. In additional to providing comparative information, this buoy also gave us some baseline data on a mangrove ecosystem.

Haulover Inlet

Our longest deployment was in Haulover Inlet near FIU's Biscayne Bay Campus. This buoy was first deployed in October 2018 in response to a red tide outbreak on the southeast coast of Florida. Since then it had been regularly monitoring water quality to help signal other potential algal blooms. The buoy was removed from Haulover Inlet in August 2020 when an emergency fish kill situation arose and it had to be moved to Biscayne Bay.