FAU Harbor Branch Partners with 4Ocean, Navocean, and GCOOS to Monitor Algae in Lake Okeechobee with First Autonomous Sailboat  

FORT PIERCE, Fla.  (February 5, 2019) – Scientists with Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute partnered with 4Ocean, Navocean and the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observation System (GCOOS), to learn more about HABs in Lake Okeechobee through the deployment of the Navocean “Nav2” vehicle, the first autonomous sail-driven surface vehicle to be used for in-land algae monitoring. 


Jordon Beckler, Ph.D., assistant research professor and principal investigator of the Geochemical Sensing Laboratory, part of FAU Harbor Branch and the FAU Institute of Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE), and Navocean founder Scott Duncan set sail to a boat, named “Vela” from the Italian word for “sailing,” from the Pahokee Marina on Tuesday. The boat is on a 10-day mission searching for harmful algal blooms around Lake Okeechobee.

 “The Navocean autonomous sail-driven surface vehicle has recently proven capable of monitoring the recent red tide bloom offshore of Sanibel in West Florida. However, this vehicle may prove even more valuable in shallow and confined water bodies like Lake Okeechobee where there is currently a limited set of existing tools capable of HAB monitoring over a large area for extended periods,” said Beckler. 


The boat is sending chlorophyll and particle data collected onboard from solar-powered sensors via satellite to (GCOOS), a NOAA certified regional office in the Integrated Ocean Observing System.  The data is being published in real-time on the Gulf AUV Network and Data Archiving Long-term Storage Facility.  

“Satellite measurements have excellent advantages as well, but there are no definitive substitutes for sustained, in situ measurements on the water, especially in such an optically complex, tannin-rich environment. We hope this vehicle proves to be a valuable tool in detecting the emergence and patterns in the Microcystis blooms along with satellite remote sensing and other optical techniques, which will together, in turn, allow us to better understand HAB behavior to ultimately protect public health and the Florida economy,” said Beckler.

Funds raised through a 4ocean FAU SpringBoard Campaign helped fund the project. 4ocean, a global group primarily known for removing trash from the ocean and coastlines contributed $11,000 to help raise more than $30,000 to support FAU Harbor Branch HAB research, such as this project.  

“Florida is 4ocean's backyard, and when we see devastating impacts like the ones taking place, we feel like it is our calling to act. Helping to fund direct research by the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Science into the problem of harmful algae blooms was an absolute mandatory for us," said Ryan Dick, Lead Marketing Manager, 4Ocean. 


Media Coverage:

PHOTOS: Autonomous sailboat monitors algae in Lake Okeechobee

Palm Beach Post-Feb 6, 2019

Algae-monitoring drone sailboat Vela launched in Lake Okeechobee ...

TCPalm-Feb 5, 2019

Autonomous surface vehicle boat collects data on Lake O
WPEC-Feb 5, 2019

Autonomous drone sailboat deployed to find algae blooms in Lake ...

TCPalm-Feb 5, 2019

NEW: A tiny self-navigating boat launched on Lake O will mesaure ...

Palm Beach Post-Feb 6, 2019

Sail-powered research vessel launched into Lake Okeechobee to study algae blooms

WPBF-Feb 5, 2019 

FAU's Self-Driving Sailboat Will Monitor Algal Blooms In Lake Okeechobee

WLRN-Feb 6, 2019