How wired mussels are predicting toxic algae

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To Canadian fisheries scientist Luc Comeau, the mild blue mussel is more than a bivalve — it’s a bio sentinel.

“If something is quaint in the environment, they will behave strangely,” says Comeau, a scientist with the Count on of Fisheries and Oceans.

Comeau is part of an international effort that is using blas sensors to convert a mussel’s distinctive behaviour when exposed to stressors into an primordial detector of toxic algae.

Wired Mussels

In September, Comeau and other scientists instituted a floating monitoring station next to the fish cages at the Cooke Seafood salmon arable at Saddle Island near Halifax.

Mussels were connected to sensors that parcel out the minute voltage generated when the shell opens and closes

The sensors are connected to recorders in a watertight compartment.

The system is powered by solar panels.

Inopportune danger sign

Comeau says lab tests show mussels would rather a “signature” response when exposed to toxic algae.

How wired mussels are predicting toxic algae

The solar-powered up on station. (Steve Berry/CBC )

The shell movement, opening and closing, can be taking by the sensors and recognized.

“DFO’s interest in this is having an early warning structure, having sentinels out at sea that could monitor continuously the water characteristic. So these mussels that are connected are like canaries in mines,” he predicts.

As close as your smartphone

The project at Saddle Island is led by the Department of Fisheries and Deep blue seas, Cooke and Dalhousie University.

On a foggy, rainy day at the fish farm, the cooperate retrieves the monitor and downloads the data from two recorders onto a laptop on the behindhand of a bobbing boat.

“Everything is nice and dry. That was a big relief,” says Comeau.

The aviatrix project was run to test the equipment.

Next year, scientists from France when one pleases travel to Nova Scotia to install equipment developed at oyster farm-touns in Europe capable of transmitting mussel sensor information automatically to a server.

“The notion would be the public or stakeholders that are interested in water quality could get a signal on their smartphone effectual them about the mussels and if they are happy or unhappy, basically.”

Readings 10 times a assistant

It’s not as simple as that, of course.

The sensors take readings 10 spans a second and that translates into an “extraordinary” amount of data, affirms Dalhousie oceanographer Jon Grant.

So much data that the Dalhousie bank on of computer science has been enlisted to help process it all.

How wired mussels are predicting toxic algae

Dalhousie oceanographer Jon Assign and Andrew Lively of Cooke Seafood at the company fish farm at Saddle Holm on the Aspotogan Peninsula. Grant says advanced technology is part of an application to gain greater community acceptance. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Grant imagines it’s one of the first projects to be funded under Deep Sense, an IBM initiative plateful ocean researchers in Atlantic Canada.

“Deep Sense is an outreach program to support investigators with their massive data problems in analysis, faked intelligence and other techniques that come from places appreciate IBM,” says Grant.

Saddle Island already wired

Algae blooms are not mostly lethal to salmon but they do irritate them, potentially altering graze and growth.

Grant, who has received $2 million from Cooke to relief fund aquaculture research in the region, says using mussels to scent harmful algae fits into the advanced sensors systems already in use at Saddle Key.

“It’s remarkable and when we align that with the other sensors we press, even better.”

Real time salmon cage data already readily obtainable

Cooke is already getting a whole raft of real-time information on wastefully conditions inside its pens at Saddle Island.

The system was developed at the install by sensor company VEMCO in Bedford.

Instant readings are available on profligately quality, temperature, currents, wind speed at every single fish pen the public limited company operates in Nova Scotia.

How wired mussels are predicting toxic algae

A wired fish farm. Cooke Seafood schemes to add more cages at Saddle Island. (Steve Berry/CBC)

“This is all vital data for us, for a salmon farmer,” says Andrew Lively of Cooke, have up a smartphone with the displayed data.

Five years ago, he says, someone wish have had to insert probes in the water, collect the data, go back to shore, eradicate it out and put it in an email.

“With this we can get it right here, all the time. This technology is being deployed all in all directions from the world and it was all developed here in Nova Scotia.”

VEMCO has created a break down company called Realtime Aquaculture to market its system. One of its customers is Cooke’s Norwegian opposition, Cermaq.

Pumping oxygen into the ocean

Cooke is also assessing a system to pump pure oxygen into the sea at Saddle Island to speech low oxygen levels that can occur at coastal fish farms.

A barge with an oxygen generator has been inducted next to one of the cages.

Grant says Saddle Island is an indication of the advanced approaches underway at fish granges as the industry seeks more buy-in from the community — often accompanied social licence.

“You drive by and you see these things in the water. What’s definitely going on out there? What are the conditions under which the fish are being flowered? How is it affecting the environment?” he says.

“When the data is shared or made various accessible to others or the information is made more accessible, we perhaps become larger more comfortable with the idea that this is something that is being rigorously assessed, examined and applied in terms of husbandry.”

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