Energy, Environment, and Smart Systems

Inner Workings: Smart-sensor network keeps close eye on lake ecosystem

New York’s Lake George may be the most high-tech lake in the world. By year’s end, a network of 41 sensor platforms will monitor the 32-mile long body of water. Its tributary stations and vertical profilers measure the chemical and physical properties of water at varying depths. Acoustic sensors measure the direction and speed of currents in three dimensions. What’s known as the Jefferson Project, named after US President Thomas Jefferson who once marveled at the lake during a visit, is run by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY. Started three years ago, the project is already collecting more data points in one week than Rensselaer researchers collected at the lake over the past three decades, says project leader Rick Relyea.

A Greener, More Healthful Place to Work

Good light also helps keep office workers alert and healthy, said Mariana Figueiro, the director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Too many offices are like floodlit caves, illuminated from above to cast light on the work surface of the desk, Dr. Figueiro said. We also need light from the side striking the back of the eye – preferably from a natural source like a window – to entrain our body’s internal circadian clock.

 

The Hidden Dangers of Road Salt

“It has a really widespread number of effects on the whole food web or ecosystem,” says Rick Relyea, a professor of biological sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Relyea has studied how road salt runoff impacts lakes as part of the Jefferson Project at Lake George in New York state. Recently, he found that road salt can reduce the size of rainbow trout hatchlings by about 30 percent, influencing their ability to elude predators and decreasing the number of eggs they lay. One experiment he worked on found that higher levels of salt could change the male-female sex ration of wood frogs.

Indian Point Closure Won’t Leave New York in the Dark

Martin Byrne, the director of business development at the New York State Center for Future Energy Systems at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said the output for Indian Point will likely be made up from numerous sources, including increased transmission capacity to bring in power from other regions like Hudson Valley and Central New York, and higher building efficiency programs.

The World's Smartest Lake is Getting Smarter

A grant worth roughly $1 million has been awarded to the Jefferson Project to add more sensors to a network that is already giving scientists a remarkably detailed understanding of Lake George, an understanding that will help advocates and policy makers preserve its clarity and purity.

The grant was awarded by the National Science Foundation, a federal agency and one of thesingle largest sources of funds for scientific research,  to  a  team  of researchers led by Rick Relyea, an RPI professor who serves as the director of the Jefferson Project, a collaborative effort of RPI, IBM and The Fund for Lake George.

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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit www.rpi.edu.