Stony Brook Harbor Undergraduate Research Observatory

Modern cable and wireless Internet technology now makes it possible to gather remote environmental data in real time. Oceanographic and meteorology data can autonomously be collected sent to a distant computer node where it can be processed and presented on a website. For Example the MSRC and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation actively support such a station at Shinnecock Inlet on the south shore of Long Island Snapshots of inlet conditions are gathered every ten minutes, along with tide, currents, waves, temperature and salinity data, all relayed back to MSRC for automatic analysis and presentation on the web.

Professor Malcolm Bowman, courtesy of the MSRC news - Malcolm J. Bowman Honored
Stony Brook Harbor is a small, relatively pristine harbor on the north shore of Long Island, which supports a wide diversity of wildlife as well as three marinas, several public beaches and other boat launching facilities. Shoaling of navigation channels is a continuing problem, necessitating expensive periodic dredging projects.

The purpose of this project is to develop a monitoring station to gather critical environmental data at the entrance to Stony Brook Harbor using modern instrumentation and Internet technology in order to bring live data into the classroom and teaching laboratory. This pilot project provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to help maintain the station, gather and analyze data, and display information in the laboratory.

One project has students using sequential images of inlet morphology using the observatory's webcam to study the changes in inlet configuration during and following major storm events. The inlet is continually shifting, making it a hazard to small vessels attempting to navigate the entrance. The image sequences are analyzed using GIS technology. Also, students are actively using surveyors’ and GPS (global positioning system) instruments to measure the topography of the inlet berms (sand banks), and underwater bathymetry from research vessels outfitted with electronic depth finders and GPS instruments.

Time lapse photography, continuous measurements of wind speed, direction, air temperature and relative humidity, ocean currents, tide levels, water temperature and salinity are relayed back to MSRC to facilitate analyzingthe oceanographic and meteorological conditions in the Harbor and how they relate to environmental changes, including sediment transport and coastal erosion/accretion.

These projects give students hands-on experience in applying modern technology to study real-world problems related to the coastal marine and atmospheric environments.

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