Green Bay, Wis. — National wireless communication trade association CTIA Wireless Foundation awarded the 2021 Climate Changemaker Award to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Citing the collaborative use of Cellcom’s wireless technology and UW-Green Bay freshwater research expertise, the award brings a $25,000 grant to the university and the opportunity to showcase the innovative work being done to combat climate change.

On Wednesday, August 10th, UW-Green Bay researchers, along with technology experts from Cellcom will demonstrate how buoy platforms armed with wireless high-tech sensors in lower Green Bay track algal production (including harmful algal blooms, or HABs), measure water clarity, and identify pockets of low oxygen in the bay. Green Bay is part of the largest freshwater system in the world, and UW-Green Bay researchers expect the collaboration to yield important insights to help protect the region’s freshwater ecosystem.

The buoys, purchased in collaboration with University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers, utilize sensors that can connect to Cellcom’s wireless sensor network near the waters of the lower bay of Green Bay. The sensors allow researchers to collect near real-time data to help accurately measure and predict future water conditions.

The bay of Green Bay is relatively shallow — an average of just 30 feet —making it susceptible to oxygen deficiency, commonly referred to as dead zones. Fertilizer runoff from farms and cities carries excess nutrients to lakes and bays, which promote rapid growth of harmful algae blooms. The algae settle to the bottom and deplete the oxygen in water as it decays. Dead zones have oxygen levels that are low enough to kill fish. Warmer water temperatures can also stimulate faster algae growth and reduce the amount of oxygen that the water can hold.

Poor water clarity – the measurement of how cloudy the water is in a lake or river – can block light to aquatic plants, smother aquatic organisms, and carry contaminants such as lead, mercury, and bacteria. In addition to reducing the number of fish, poor clarity can lead to less healthy fish and fish that are less healthy to eat.

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