(August 05, 2020) --

The West End Buoy sits about 9 miles off Dauphin Island's shoreline near Katrina Cut.

You can now access real-time water quality data wherever you are from a buoy that sits about nine miles off Dauphin Island’s shoreline. The buoy, maintained by Dauphin Island Sea Lab scientists, is part of the Alabama Real-Time Coastal Observing System (ARCOS).

An oceanography instrument, known as a CTD, measures temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen about two feet below the water's surface and one the seafloor bottom below the buoy. A data logger connected to the buoy collects the information, sends it to a cellular modem located at the top of the buoy, and then transmits the information in near real-time to arcos.disl.org. 

Salinity is the amount of dissolved salt in the water. Dissolved oxygen is the amount of gaseous oxygen in the water. If dissolved oxygen levels fall below one to two milligrams for a few hours, the conditions could create a fish kill. 

A view of the mooring holding the West End Buoy in place. (Photo Credit: Grant Lockridge)

"If you're a mariner, fisherman, or general user of the ocean, this data will help you determine whether or not you want to be out fishing or diving," Dr. Brian Dzwonkowski, Senior Marine Scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, said. "If you're a scientist, this data can be helpful in determining whether or not you want to go sample for a project."

The website is freely accessible by the public with ten sites monitoring the water quality. 

Several sites also measure air temperature, water temperature, and wind speed and direction. The information is updated every half hour and is gathered from eight water quality sampling stations that are located around coastal Alabama, including a new site off-shore.

ARCOS, a long-standing resource for coastal Alabama, is currently being funded by the NOAA RESTORE Science Program. The program aims to increase our understanding of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and provide resource managers with the best available science.