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Updated 9:00 AM September 7, 2009

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Partnership with buoy company
to boost Great Lakes monitoring network

A network of environmental monitoring buoys in the Great Lakes will grow thanks to a partnership between U-M and the Michigan-based company S2 Yachts.

The buoy network is the university's Upper Great Lakes Observing System (U-GLOS), which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's integrated ocean observing system. That system gathers data for predicting ocean behavior like meteorologists predict the weather.
Bruce Bultman of S2 Yachts looks on as an environmental monitoring buoy is launched in Grand Traverse Bay on a test run. The buoy is part of the Upper Great Lakes Observing System and eventually will be placed in Little Traverse Bay. (Photo by Guy Meadows)

U-GLOS buoys also collect information about pollution transport, and how the Great Lakes respond to natural and manmade changes in the region, says Guy Meadows, director of the university's Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory and a professor in the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, and Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences.

Meadows and his colleagues are interested in the exchange of water between Lake Michigan and its bays.

"Bays are population centers and population centers put greater stress on the water," Meadows says. "We'd like to be able to forecast and predict the stress a community puts on the water."

U-GLOS currently has two buoys in Grand Traverse Bay. A third will be added there by the end of summer. A buoy was deployed in Little Traverse Bay a couple weeks ago. This newest buoy is the first of what is expected to be many new additions to the U-GLOS and other networks as a result of the university's partnership with S2 Yachts.

The university licensed the buoy technology to S2 Yachts. That will help the company transition into a new market in this difficult economy.

"This is exciting because we're taking advanced technology and transitioning it to a Michigan company," Meadows says. "They can build a better product than we can here in the lab. They can build an entire buoy in eight hours. It takes us two months."

Rick Eggerding, S2's director of product development, says the partnership allows the company to save jobs.

"This partnership has meant that we were able to keep people employed as we developed this product and will be able to bring people back to work as we ramp up production," Eggerding says. "This has also opened new doors for us that will lead to new products, and thus new jobs for more people."

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