UC Davis using AUV to measure climate change in Lake Tahoe



The University of California, Davis’ (UC Davis) Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) has deployed an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to evaluate how climate change is affecting Lake Tahoe.

Deployed earlier this month, the AUV, commonly known as a glider, will coast 150 meters under Lake Tahoe’s surface, taking measurements as it goes back and forth.

“It will continuously seesaw, or what we call yo-yo,” says UC Davis professor and researcher Alex Forrest, through KCRA.com.

“Basically what it will do is change its buoyancy to make itself sink. It will slowly glide down, and then change its buoyancy to rise, and slowly rise up through the water column.”

While in the water, the AUV will continuously measure several of the lake’s traits, including its temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll and other data. All of this information will be broadcast back to researchers.

The AUV has a satellite phone connection inside of it, which it will use to “text message its position” to researchers, and update information it collects as it travels across the lake, back and forth, over the next few months.

According to Forrest, the AUV is especially beneficial for operations in Lake Tahoe because it allows research missions to continue even during major weather events.

“When we get more severe storm events, when we get more severe winds, this is something we can understand by having autonomous robots, when we couldn't otherwise be out there,” Forrest says.

“The advantage of using this, as opposed to going out with a boat for traditional-style sampling, is this is able to come up and do work continuously -- even during big storm events.”

​Besides being used in Lake Tahoe, the AUV was recently used to study Antarctica, and it will continue to be deployed for research there, as well as in the Artic, and other oceans and lakes all over the world.