A total of seven ACEMS researchers from QUT and Monash worked together on the project, a collaboration between ACEMS researchers and the Queensland Government that came together because of a need by Queensland Government to manage big data. A new ARC Linkage Project, led by Professor Mengersen, partnered with the Queensland Government and in collaboration with researchers from QUT, Monash, and RMIT University is now expanding on this work to revolutionise water quality monitoring in the information age. ACEMS is led by The University of Melbourne.
FIGHTING POLLUTION WITH MATHS
ARC-supported researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS), in collaboration with scientists at the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, have developed statistical predictive tools that could lead to the deployment of low-cost sensors to measure sediment and nutrient levels in the rivers and streams that flow into coastal waters along the Great Barrier Reef. The researchers say the sensors will help to manage one of the biggest threats facing the Great Barrier Reef, which is pollution from land making its way to the ocean. The ACEMS researchers, including Associate Professor Erin Peterson, Professor Rob Hyndman, Dr Catherine Leigh, Dr Sevvandi Kandanaarachchi and Professor Kerrie Mengersen, say there is a desire to complement water quality data from long-term monitoring stations with finer scale data from lower cost sensors to ultimately provide more frequent data from more locations. At present, low-cost sensors aren’t yet able to show the two things that are most important in determining water quality—direct measures of sediments and nutrients. However, the new statistical tools developed by ACEMS will have the potential to take sensor measurements like turbidity and conductivity data and use them to predict levels of sediments and nutrients in the water. This will enable water agencies to forecast levels of sediments and nutrients in rivers, and automatically plot how those values change over time.
"RIGHT NOW, SOMEONE HAS TO PHYSICALLY GO TO WHERE THE MONITORING STATION IS, GET A SAMPLE, TAKE IT BACK TO A LAB AND TEST IT. IF WE CAN AUTOMATE THIS PROCESS WITH THE SENSORS, WE CAN GET A LOT MORE FREQUENT PREDICTIONS OF WHAT’S HAPPENING,” SAYS DR KANDANAARACHCHI.
DES Water Quality & Investigations (WQI) team members on the Mulgrave River. Image courtesy of the Queensland Government.
ADVANCING ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND MANAGEMENT
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