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Environment & Energy

A DIY Project Aims to Gather More Data About Lake Algae

Lake Erie algal bloom
Spectrometers being designed by a University of Akron science professor can be used by volunteers to help gather algae data from waterways.

A crowd sourcing effort is in the works to monitor toxic algae that is polluting Lake Erie.

University of Akron science professor Hunter King and his students are developing affordable, do-it-yourself measuring devices that the public will be able to build or buy.

King says they want to get materials in the hands of volunteer groups and schools to measure local water sources.

“For one thing we want to have a larger data-set of the nutrient loading over a larger space and also the more people are actually active in the process of measuring, the more people will actually be engaged in the problem.”

King says they’re still testing the spectrometers. He’s not yet sure when they’ll be available to the public.

Instructions and designs to build the spectrometers will be provided by Professor King. They will also be available to purchase for those who don’t want to build their own. Materials will cost roughly $20 dollars to build, while pre-made models will cost around $30.

The spectrometers are made from laser cutting and 3D printed materials, using a reagent, light and mirror to analyze nutrients in the water. Results are read with an iPhone app and can be sent directly to researchers.