TideRiders: Toward a Citizen-Scientist-Enabled and Institution-Supported Distributed Sensor Network for Water Quality Monitoring
The TideRider concept engages the public not just in the collection of data but also in the building, deployment, operation, and recovery of these robot sensors. TideRiders will carry a suite of basic water quality instrumentation (temperature, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen), transmit data and accept commands over the cellular network, and can sample surface and bottom waters by surfacing and submerging on a programmable schedule. Operators will harness tidal currents to move their TideRiders deliberately around an embayment, essentially by surfacing in a favorable tide and anchoring on the bottom in an adverse tide. A network of TideRiders deployed in tidally-dominated estuaries like Buzzards Bay and Narragansett Bay could provide basic water quality data at several-hour intervals for weeks at a time by “virtually mooring” in center-bay locations that are otherwise only accessible by boat and therefore typically sampled less frequently than shore stations.
We present preliminary field results from a series of prototypes designed and built by students. The prototype devices utilize a novel low-cost semi-passive shallow-water buoyancy engine and were constructed for less than $1000 in parts.