Puget Sound gets new alarm system



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Posted on January 25, 2010 at 6:56 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 26 at 1:33 PM

MUKILTEO, Wash. - Once a month researchers would venture out in a boat to gather samples of the Puget Sound at Mukilteo to check its salinity, temperature and oxygen levels. That was yesterday.

Today they can just log in to a Web site and get a real-time readout of those measurements any time they care to.

A coalition of groups and agencies is sharing the expense and maintenance of new underwater monitoring station that takes those samples every 15 minutes.

The State Department of Ecology owns the device but needed a place to put it.

The Port of Everett agreed to let it be anchored off one of its piers which extends out into the water north of Mukilteo.

Then all they needed was someone to take care of the state of the art the machinery, preferably, for free. The Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA) answered that call and now, at very little cost to taxpayers, the Sound has a 24-hour nurse constantly checking its vital signs.

Declining dissolved oxygen is blamed for fish kills and dead zones that have shown up in Hood Canal and the Pacific Coast.

"Puget Sound has intriguing levels of dissolved oxygen, and we're starting to see lower levels here in Mukilteo," explained Ardi Kveven, Executive Director of ORCA.

Kveven's students will regularly recalibrate and clean the probe to keep it in working order. In exchange they get actual research experience and enough college credits to allow them to graduate from high school with a two-year college associates degree.

"We get to go out in the field and actually test our hypotheses and test our theories whereas in regular high school science, we wouldn't be able to that," said ORCA student Anthony Whitmire.

Scientists have been looking for ways to link dissolved oxygen levels to events like heavy rain and runoff, flooding, temperature changes and others.This system will allow them to test oxygen levels immediately after those events. All they have to do is log onto the program's Web site for a real-time readout.

The public is invited to check it out for themselves at  http://www.stccmop.org/datamart/observation_network/fixedstation?station=muk01.