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Akron Professor Leads DIY Project To Track Lake Erie Pollution

A 600 mile long algae bloom on the Ohio River in 2015.
Jeff Reutter
Ohio Sea Grant via Flickr

A crowdsourcing effort is in the works to monitor toxic algae polluting Lake Erie.

University of Akron science professor Hunter King and his students are developing affordable, do-it-yourself measuring devices that the public will be able to build or buy.

King says they want to get materials in the hands of volunteer groups and schools to measure local water sources.

“For one thing, we want to have a larger data set of the nutrient loading over a larger space,” King says. “And also, the more people are actually active in the process of measuring, the more people will actually be engaged in the problem.”

King says they’re still testing the spectrometers. He is not yet sure when they’ll be available to the public.

King will provide instructions and designs to build the spectrometers, but they will also be available to purchase for those who don’t want to build their own. Materials will cost roughly $20 to build, while pre-made models will cost around $30.

The spectrometers are made from laser cutting and 3D printed materials, using a reagent, light and mirror to analyze nutrients in the water. Results are read with an iPhone app and can be sent directly to researchers.

Tyler Thompson was a reporter and on-air host for 89.7 NPR News. Thompson, originally from northeast Ohio, has spent the last three years working as a Morning Edition host and reporter at NPR member station KDLG Public Radio and reporter at the Bristol Bay Times Newspaper in Dillingham, Alaska.