It’s all about the little things

By Shannon Dunnigan

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things -Robert Brault, 1985

Today, is about equipment…toys, gear, instruments, really any name you would like to call them. In some cases, they are just instruments we use to measure particular parameters, such as the temperature of the water. However, sometimes they truly feel like toys, because how else can you explain the sheer enjoyment you get when you use this equipment?


At several of our water quality sites we have issues with some of those estuarine organisms that like to attach themselves to anything in the water (case in point, the photo to above is an EXO2 datasonde pulled from our Pine Island site in July 2016). Organisms like barnacles, bryozoans, and tunicates (oh my!). Crabs even like to hang onto barnacles like a rock climber to crimps. Unfortunately, this leads to issues with our data collection as the sensors measuring ambient conditions in the water (such as salinity, turbidity, pH, etc.) also get fouled by these “foul” organisms and no longer are able to record reliable data. <—That’s a problem!

Enter: the Wiped C/T Sensor.

We recently received this new conductivity and temperature sensor for our long-term water quality datasondes in the mail. Some people called me crazy, some just laughed, and others completely understood just how excited I was to get these sensors (those fellow “scientific toy connoisseurs”).

Comparison of the new EXO Wiped C/T sensor (top) and old C/T2 sensor (bottom) which measure water temperature, conductivity, and salinity

What is conductivity do you ask? Well, salt water conducts electricity; therefore, you can tell how salty the water is by measuring how much electric charge it gives off! Our old conductivity and temperature (C/T) sensor has two internal cells (sensors) that measure conductance (see images below). Having these cells “internal” is great as it provides a bit of protection to the cells while they are deployed; however, they also scream “make me your home!” to all those foul organisms I mentioned earlier. Fantastic. With the new Wiped C/T sensor, our long-term water quality instruments can take more reliable data as the cell that measures conductivity and, thus, salinity is now able to be wiped by a central wiper brush present on the sonde, every fifteen minutes.

Take that, barnacles!

So, though it may seem like a small, silly piece of equipment, it fills me with such joy because now I know that we are better able to collect the scientific information needed to further understand the way our estuary functions.

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