A new floating device, which acts as a one-stop shop for river quality and can be contacted by researchers via cell phone for downloads, is undergoing testing. The device, which contains water pumps, electronic sensors and meteorological instruments, is being used to evaluate the quality of the St. Johns River in Florida by the Florida Marine Research Institute, mainly to detect harmful algal blooms and fish diseases before they can destroy river life, as has occurred in the river. The project is estimated to cost $150,000.

The platform contains more than 30 different remote sensors allowing specific variables to be measured at short intervals for an extended period. Up until now, it has been difficult to obtain representative samples, as few data points are used to represent long-time periods or a large geographic area, missing most of the high-frequency variability in aquatic ecosystems and being limited by time, personnel and logistics.

The floating platform, which has been developed by local company AMJ Equipment Corp., avoids these problems with its continuously recording instrumentation aboard a small pontoon boat deck, which permits safe and convenient maintenance and portability among sites.