Aug 31, 2017

Thrifty approach to environmental monitoring

Thrifty approach to environmental monitoring

Researchers are refining a wireless sensor network technology known as SEMAT (Smart Environmental Monitoring & Assessment Technologies) that may offer groups such as councils a budget-friendly means of obtaining continuous environmental data.

The University of Queensland’s Associate Professor Ron Johnstone and Griffith University’s Dr Jarrod Trevathan are working on the technology.

Dr Johnstone said SEMAT enabled environmental managers and researchers to use real-time information sent to their laptops from underwater sensors, and allowed them to command the system remotely to adapt to their needs.

“We can measure underwater light climate, turbidity, temperature and salinity,” Dr Johnstone said.

“The system is tailored to overcome constraints, such as limited budget and staff capacity, currently hindering more effective environmental monitoring by local governments and agencies.”

The system recently attracted a Logan City Council Envirogrant to deploy further testing at a Lake Ellerslie site at Meadowbrook, Logan.

Three sensors are also being deployed in the Bundamba Creek Catchment at Ipswich to examine the impact of new housing estates on the natural habitat.

Dr Johnstone said the project, originally funded by a Queensland Government NIRAP grant, could use off-the-shelf componentry, solar power, and adapt easily to emerging technologies.

The researchers are also using components produced by 3-D printing with recycled plastic and incorporating various components such as recycled batteries and connectors through a partnership with recycling enterprise Substation 33.


Dr Johnstone said the research team had been continuously improving the designs, miniaturising the componentry and honing the software.

“Marine environments are particularly hostile and difficult for deploying sensitive measurement systems and, as a consequence, the need for data is greatest in marine environments, particularly in developing economies and regions,” he said.

“A large part of the world’s communities rely heavily on healthy marine ecosystems, so the potential impact of this technology is immense.”


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