12 Feb 2016

Bellingham Bay Buoy deployed: providing ability to observe marine waters for Northwest Indian College students and the world

NWIC boat_2

The Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction, through its education partner University of Washington, UW, is deploying an oceanographic observing buoy in Bellingham Bay on February 11th that will allow Northwest Indian College, NWIC, students both hands-on experience with the technology as well as the ability to study the data from their computers, through Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems, NANOOS.Buoy

“It’s impressive to see NWIC students helping Western and UW collect important data from our oceans,” said, Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island. “The collaboration between these three schools is key to monitoring what goes on in these waters.”

The goals of CMOP are to transcend traditional scientific, educational, and societal boundaries in order to understand complex coastal margin issues. Through CMOP, NWIC students have joined UW students on oceanography research cruises out of UW Friday Harbor.  UW worked with the NWIC, Western Washington University, WWU, and the Lummi Nation Natural Resources Department to site the buoy and design its features. The buoy will provide the oceanographic data needed to understand fluctuations in harvested species like Dungeness crab and clams. Marco Hatch, Director, Salish Sea Research Center at NWIC says “NWIC students are excited about this project because it blends the latest technology with the needs of the Lummi community. This buoy will give students real-time place-based data that can provide environmental context for in class and capstone research. For many years NWIC students have enjoyed oceanographic opportunities provided by UW and CMOP; through this buoy we will continue this partnership. In fact a number of students have stated that going on these cruises solidified their desire to become marine scientists.”

“This program is a great example of Pacific Northwest ingenuity at its best,” Ranker said. “These smart students and resourceful schools are helping to ensure the health of one of our most precious resources.”

The Lummi Nation has given a name to the buoy, Se’lhaem. Se’lhaem was an island located near the mouth of the Nooksack River, but disappeared some time ago. The island was important to the Lummi community as a place for harvesting butter clams, horse clams and cockles. Project lead Jan Newton, UW oceanographer, said “This has been such a great project, to bring together students to gain very real experience with technology and science, to work with so many partners, and to provide much needed high-quality data about this part of the Salish Sea. Best of all, it will be a lasting legacy.”

Group buoy small

UW will work collectively with WWU and NWIC to maintain the buoy, engaging students from all three institutions. WWU research vessels will be used to deploy and maintain the buoy. Says Erika McPhee-Shaw, Director of Western’s Shannon Point Marine Center, “We expect the data sets to be used in multiple classes at Western, and for students to have opportunities to participate in turnaround cruises, where they’ll experience how oceanography is done in the real world. Plus, she explains, “Once these data sets have been streaming for a few years their value will be immense. It is difficult to overstate the new understanding we gain of hour-to-hour and week-to-week variability, the true ‘ocean weather’ of the system, that we can only start to see when we implement in-situ observing system systems like this one.” The buoy will measure a host of atmospheric measurements (e.g., wind, air pressure) and has sensors to measure conditions in the bay, such as temperature, salinity, oxygen, pH and chlorophyll.  These data are valuable to understanding the base of the marine ecosystem, but also issues such as hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and ocean acidification (reduction of pH). Data will be available to the public as part of NANOOS (www.nanoos.org).

For More News & Information:

Northwest Indian College Contact:

Marco B.A. Hatch, PhD

Director, National Indian Center for Marine Environmental Research & Education
Northwest Indian College
2522 Kwina Road
Bellingham, WA 98226-9217