Midland College tests equipment for coral research projectMay 02, 2018

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From May to mid-July, Midland College students participating in a multi-curricular research project will deploy and test sensor pods, which will be used to analyze water quality parameters.

The sensor pod prototype was designed and built by MC engineering students led by Dr. Brian Flowers, MC engineering and physics instructor. 

“The Engineering Club at MC created a prototype of a water analysis sensor system so that students in MC’s biology and chemistry departments can analyze water samples near and at a distance from Roatan’s coral reef,” explained Flowers.  “Commercial sensor pods cost approximately $15,000.  We were able to develop one at a cost of approximately $1,400.  This is actually the second year of the project.  Last year we designed several models, and this year we perfected our design.  Our biggest challenge was designing a pod that could be easily transported and deployed in less than 5 minutes.”

This will be the third year of the Roatan research project, and the second year that MC’s engineering department has participated.  Flowers said that the next step after testing at COM will be testing the equipment in deeper water at Santa Rosa Blue Hole near Albuquerque, NM.

The multi-curricular research team is led by MC Chemistry Professor Dr. Tom Ready and is composed of faculty and students from MC’s chemistry, biology and engineering departments.  The group will be conducting their actual research on July 28-August 4 in Roatan.

“Coral reefs throughout the world are dying at an alarming rate,” explained Ready.  “One-quarter of the world’s reefs have already been lost, and those remaining are under stress due to warmer and more acidic oceans.  Reefs have existed on Earth for millions of years; however, some estimates indicate that up to 70 percent of the world's shallow reefs could be gone in the next few decades.  One theory is that they are being destroyed by titanium dioxide, a substance found in most sunscreens.  We are hoping that our ongoing research helps to contribute to other findings regarding remedies to prevent coral reef destruction.”

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