Scientists trial new technology for water quality monitoring

Professor Andrew Tyler, professor of Environmental Science and associate dean for research in the Faculty of Natural Sciences

A project to trial new ways of protecting the aquaculture industry from the impact of harmful algal blooms (HABs) and other threats to water quality has begun in Scotland.

The trials of drone technology and other potential modern methods are part of a programme named MONOCLE, funded by the European Commission’s Horizon programme.

The project will test new techniques of identifying microscopic algae that causes coloured scum to appear on the surface of inhabited waters and that can kill marine life by drastically lowering oxygen levels.

To conduct the trials, a team of around 20 scientists from the University of Stirling, the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and other institutions across Europe met last week in Loch Leven, Kinross-shire.

The information they have started to gather could indicate whether using drones improves upon conventional monitoring methods and has the potential to support satellite data on water quality.

The GloboLakes project, for instance, monitors concentrations of harmful algae using satellites owned by the European Space Agency.

Stirling’s Professor Andrew Tyler leads the £2.9 million project. He has said that the current trials will be the first of a series, and that scientists will spend their time studying how different instruments work so as to compare their outputs with tried methods.

Further tests are due to take place in Sweden, Hungary, Romania and Tanzania.