2019 | Chile | Antonia Gallardo Escandón, Diego Oyarzún Muñoz

Inexpensive Seawater Tester Probe for Scientific and Artisanal Fishing Purposes

Water issue adressed: Too dirty
Antonia Gallardo and Diego Oyarzún, students of the Liceo Altos del Mackay, Region of Aysén, Chile, appear in the photograph with the probe they made to monitor water columns.

The Chilean region of Aysén has 19 fishing coves operated by artisanal fishermen who depend on fish –sea urchin in northern Aysén, southern hake and other species in central Aysén– for their livelihoods. The conservation status of these resources and the precarious existence led by the fishermen are a cause for concern.

The climate crisis has raised seawater temperatures, causing changes in marine wildlife. We do not know for certain how ocean resources are faring in the face of such abrupt shifts.

These circumstances call for new technologies enabling fishermen to actively monitor their fisheries management zones; for example, for seawater temperature, a factor that directly impacts fish behavior. This would improve fishing opportunities and sustainable resource management by artisanal fishermen. In addition, the region can make a valuable contribution to marine research. Because of its subantarctic influence, scientists regard Aysén as highly suitable for the study of biodiversity and climate change. What is the region’s actual biological productivity? What effect is the climate crisis having on its structure?

Plenty of ocean research technology and equipment exists, but it tends to be costly and often unaffordable to local researchers and to the communities that depend on marine resources. What we propose is an inexpensive tester probe based on affordable, reusable, easily-configured Arduino boards and compatible sensors, focusing on physical and chemical seawater parameters of importance to commercial fishing and to several fields of study. Sensor, electronic and waterproofing systems have performed well in preliminary testing conducted in riverine and lacustrine settings.

These solutions could help improve living conditions in local communities reliant on sensitive marine resources being impacted by the climate crisis and extractive activities. They could also help understand how –or whether- ecosystems are adapting, in an unprecedented “citizen science” partnership between fishermen and academics.

This is how I came up with the idea for this project:

We are interested in finding solutions to improve the quality of life of communities that depend on marine resources for their subsistence, affected by climate change and extractive activity. Also, generate links between productive activity and the academic world through the concept of "citizen science".

General and Specific Objectives

General Objective Build an inexpensive tester probe to monitor the water column. The probe should be portable, versatile, accurate, recoverable, and enable retrieval of physical and chemical parameters such as seawater temperature in order to pinpoint areas associated with commercial marine species sensitive to it. The tester probe should also be able to accommodate sensors for conductivity, turbidity, pH, redox potential (as an indicator of chemosynthesis?), dissolved oxygen, fluorescence, and turbulence. Specific Objectives • Build a low-cost submersible tester probe designed to take accurate readings. • Build an Arduino-based electronic system designed to collect temperature data using calibrated, accurate, inexpensive sensors compatible with Arduino boards. • Store time-stamped data in real time on a micro-SD or similar storage device. • Attach LCD readout to display real-time data. • Additionally, test operation of a conductivity sensor.

Project results

Affordable technologies such as what we devised are crucial for exploration of ocean environments. Yet, where the resulting data could be most helpful in addressing sustainability and the connection of local communities to marine ecosystems is in the livelihood activities on which so many communities depend. Our tester probe prototypes met most of the stated objectives, including reading, recording and storing data that was both reliable and accurate. Both versions were portable and easy to handle in marine environments and both were very inexpensive compared to commercial alternatives. Our prototypes could read multiple parameters thanks to a vast assortment of Arduino-compatible, commercially available sensors. Our tests further showed that conductivity sensors are fully functional under the stated conditions, and initial testing of turbidity and turbulence sensors is now underway. With this we hope to encourage others to ask new questions, formulate new hypotheses and come up with new ways of working with citizens. Artisanal fishing communities, for example, can join with students to do citizen science and democratize knowledge. Innovative, inexpensive and inspirational technologies can improve productivity, sustainability and local living conditions and ensure a new connection with the environment, especially among young people. Evaluating and validating whether inexpensive monitoring systems can be widely adopted, thereby helping promote sound fisheries management and cooperation between academia and the community, was not part of our study. Disseminating and promoting these benefits will require a long-term effort and the commitment of all concerned.


Ania Andersch

Programme manager ania.andersch@siwi.org +46 8 121 360 59