Wireless reef monitoring: Five senior engineering students at UC Santa Cruz are trying to push the limits of low-power wireless transmission to facilitate the monitoring of remote natural environments. The apparatus they are building will track conditions on coral reefs in distant locations and beam information back in real time to a land-based station. The students named their creation SEA-LABS, short for "Sensor Exploration Apparatus utilizing Low-power Aquatic Broadcasting System." SEA-LABS was originally designed to help UCSC biologist Donald Potts track environmental changes that affect the reefs of Midway, a remote atoll of the Hawaiian archipelago. But SEA-LABS also has the potential to become a low-cost tsunami-warning device, said Matt Bromage, a computer engineering student who acts as SEA-LABS team manager. ..
Now entering its final testing stages, the project should culminate this summer with a trip to the Midway atoll, 1,200 miles northwest of Honolulu, where the students will install and test their waterproof and salt-resistant prototype. .. The core of SEA-LABS is a Programmable Ocean Device (POD), which consists of a processor, a memory storage component, and a battery that can last up to two years, all housed in a waterproof casing about the size of a small wastebasket. The POD can be bolted to the seafloor near a reef. .. The POD has cable connections to sensors that independently record pressure, light, salinity, and temperature. The sensors are small enough to fit in any desired location on or within a reef and can be placed right next to plants, corals, and other reef inhabitants. .. The POD connects to a receiver/transmitter attached to a surface buoy. The transmitter broadcasts the data recorded by the sensors from the POD to a base station on land via a radio antenna. ..
The students use off-the-shelf components and develop nonproprietary open-access software. Depending on the number of sensors attached to each POD, SEA-LABS should cost between $500 and $1,000 per POD." 11:43:37 PM
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