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New N.C. ferry-linked water monitoring begins generating useful data for analysis

CHAPEL HILL -- For the first time, marine scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University have begun monitoring surface water quality in the Neuse River with the help of the Neuse River ferry and its N.C. Department of Transportation staff. They expect the effort, called FerryMon, eventually to become a model for ferry-based water quality monitoring throughout the nation.

Drs. Hans Paerl and Joseph S. Ramus, professors at the UNC-CH and Duke marine laboratories in Morehead City and Beaufort, respectively, and project co-directors, will expand their monitoring to the Swan Quarter-Ocracoke and Cedar Island-Ocracoke ferries next spring.

"So far the system has been working flawlessly, and we can't say enough about how helpful the people with the N.C. Department of Transportation's ferry division and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources have been," Paerl said.

Pamlico Sound, the nation's second largest sound, "holds the distinction of being the largest estuary in the United States about which there is the least known," Ramus said. "Our program will form the basis for evaluating and modeling how the ecosystem responds to human and natural impacts to the sound."

The equipment sits in a box attached to a water intake line in the vessel's protected sea chest below deck and amidships, Paerl said. Some of the water, needed for the ferry's air conditioning system, is first diverted to devices that record temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll and geographic position once a minute. A telemetry system involving a cell phone enables researchers at their laboratories to collect data for analysis anytime they wish.

Another automated, refrigerated device collects water samples to be tested for nutrients, algal pigments, dissolved organic matter and suspended solids.

"The frequency of data collection will ensure that we have all-important information on where and when samples were ga
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Contact: David Williamson
David_Williamson@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
10-Dec-2000


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