UMD Large Lakes Observatory Plants Robot-like Innovation in Lake Superior

By KBJR News 1

August 9, 2012 Updated Aug 9, 2012 at 9:01 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Researchers with UMD's Large Lakes Observatory are still marveling at the extent of the potential that the Autonomous Moored Profiler, or AMP, posessess. With its deployment into the depths of Lake Superior, scientists will be able to measure everything; from temperature, to currents, to nutrient and sediment levels.

"What this is going to allow us to do is measure a wide variety of parameters that are interesting to not just physical scientists, like me, but biologists and chemists," said UMD LLO researcher, Jay Austin.

According to Bruce Rhoades, Senior Electrical Engineer at Wet Labs--who designed the AMP--this robot-like innovation, more prevalent in oceanic research, far surpasses traditional means of data gathering, which was done one trip at a time, weather permitting.

"With the AMP, it's deployed and stays out, and does it autonomously--day after day after day, regardless of what the weather is," said Rhoades.

"...not this, 'let's run out in the boat for the day; let's stay out for a week,' kind of thing. People get seasick, this thing doesn't," said UMD Assistant Scientist, Matt James.

And, while a $485,000 National Science Foundation grant was needed to pay for the two profilers, in the long run, researchers say the AMP's will save them money.

"Ship time gets costly. This will use the ship time to put it out, and use ship time to go out, and retrieve it. But, aside from that, it's out there 24/7," said Rhoades.

The AMP's still have their limitations.

"This is not an ideal instrument [for], for instance, looking at climate change. We have other equipment out there that allows us to assess climatic change from year to year," said Austin.

But, according to Austin, the data they collect will be as priceless as it is practical in the understanding of our Great Lakes.

Data collected by the AMP's will also allow researchers to study the affects of high sediment, and nutrient levels, in Lake Superior, that were washed into the lake by June's flood.