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URI researchers use new technologies to examine watershed health on Hunt River

August 16, 2013

‘Drones’ will examine water quality, sediments in watersheds

KINGSTON—Scientists at the University of Rhode Island will be collaborating with colleagues from across the state and country in the coming weeks to learn more about the state’s watershed health.

URI professor of Oceanography Jennifer Specker will lead a team of researchers and students in utilizing new technology to monitor the Hunt River watershed in North Kingstown, as well as areas of Aquidneck Island.
“One thing we are doing that is original is we are using the technology of drones to go out over bodies of water in the sample water,” said Specker. “That way, we don’t disturb what is at the bottom and top of the water. That is a new technology we are trying to bring to bear.”
Specker and her colleagues aim to develop better strategies in terms of preserving and protecting the state’s watersheds through the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). The Narragansett Bay Watershed consists of 2,066 square miles, 984 of which are within Rhode Island’s borders. Two million people in 100 municipalities call its coastal and riparian surroundings home, enjoying recreational activities at beaches, as well as benefiting economically from its bounty.
“Rhode Island is already facing drought, and we’re already facing increased storm activity, [and] this project aims to accelerate society’s response to these weather events,” said Specker. “The idea is to be able to rapidly gather information about the watersheds so decision makers can respond more quickly.”
The sensors from the new technology will gather information on sediment, water quality, and nutrient inputs which can lead to damaging events such as algae blooms.
“The Hunt River has several tributaries that go into it, and we care a lot about nitrate and how much it comes from more farming areas and then getting into the river,” said Specker. “So we are concerned about how much that gets into the bay. That will be one thing we measure.”
Specker further noted that the two watershed areas, the Hunt River and Aquidneck Island, have been specifically chosen because much research has already been done on the health of the water systems there.

For the rest of this story and more local news, pick up the August 15 issue of the Standard Times.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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