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World's First Electronic Water Monitoring Network Begins Tests In Florida's Indian River Lagoon

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FORT PIERCE, Florida -- The world's first network of ORCA's Kilroy water monitoring systems, the newest conservation tool being developed by the Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA) to provide more accurate water quality data than conventional sampling methods, will begin initial monitoring tests today in Florida's Indian River Lagoon. Later this year, a second planned test of ORCA's Kilroy technology is schedule for Maryland's Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the U.S. and the nation's most imperiled marine ecosystem.

"ORCA's Kilroy is brilliant," said Sylvia A. Earle, Ph.D., explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society. "The whole concept of a low-cost monitoring network is critically important for understanding the ocean so we can better protect it."

"Our priority is to revolutionize marine conservation by developing new technologies, such as ORCA's Kilroy system, that show measurable results and can increase effective community-led conservation," said Keith Paglen, co-founder and chief executive officer of ORCA. "Communities that rely on the water quality of nearby streams, rivers, lagoons and the ocean will use the real-time data reported by ORCA's Kilroy systems to reverse the failing health of their coastal waters and protect the precious habitat that fish, marine mammals and other wildlife require for survival."

Named after the fictional World War II cartoon character that accompanied Allied forces, ORCA's Kilroy monitoring system is destined to be the most comprehensive and affordable aquatic monitoring system for empowering governments and communities to develop and implement more informed conservation programs to address coastal water quality challenges. Slightly larger than a football and costing significantly less than other sensors, Kilroy nimbly monitors a water body's vital signs – flow, speed, direction, turbidity, temperature, salinity and the prevalence of key microorganisms, including those responsible for red tides associated with paralytic shellfish poisoning.

"I'm proud ORCA's state-of-the-art Kilroy technology is being developed here in Florida," said Congressman Tom Rooney (R-Fla). "Dr. Widder won a MacArthur fellowship in 2006 and she could have gone anywhere, but she remained in Florida and now her work is helping the state become a leader in ocean technologies—so we can help other regions throughout the nation, including Florida's Indian River Lagoon as well as the beautiful Chesapeake Bay."

Congressman Rooney's District includes parts of the Indian River Lagoon, which is one of the most biologically diverse estuaries in North America, straddling 156 miles of Florida's east coast from Ponce Inlet in Volusia County, south to Jupiter Inlet in Palm Beach County. The tests will serve as the vanguard to additional development and deployment of ORCA's Kilroy systems in waterways across the nation, including a second test site in the once healthy Chesapeake Bay.

As the nation's first technology-based marine conservation organization, ORCA is dedicated to the protection and restoration of marine ecosystems and the species they sustain through the development of innovative technologies and science-based conservation action. With support from the State of Florida, the Office of Naval Research, private foundations, government officials and concerned citizens, ORCA is developing the high-tech sensors and communications systems that are capable of detecting the presence of certain plants, animals and other factors to evaluate water quality.

ORCA recently received a $1 million proactive grant from the Pennsylvania-based Claneil Foundation, whose mission is to create healthy communities. The grant will be used to further develop Kilroy's functionality and pilot the Kilroy initiative in the Chesapeake Bay in collaboration with researchers from the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution.

"In the Indian River Lagoon, Chesapeake Bay, or anywhere else ORCA's Kilroy technology is deployed, scientists and the public will receive valuable water quality information displayed on intuitive website interfaces," said Dr. Edith "Edie" Widder, co-founder, president and senior scientist of ORCA. "With accurate and scientifically defensible information, we then can engage local communities in developing better marine conservation management solutions against threats such as red tide. Through continued monitoring, we will show them the positive impact that their actions are having on their marine environment."

Chesapeake Bay Project

Chesapeake Bay's "oxygen dead zone," stretching for hundreds of square miles during the summer, is deficient in oxygen to support a healthy ecosystem. While solutions were identified years ago, the bay continues to suffer from nutrient pollution from factory farm manure and agricultural runoff.

"Until policy makers and regulatory agencies have conclusive and reliable water quality data, the kind of information captured by Kilroy, appropriate remedies will not be taken," added Dr. Widder. "The tide is changing, though, as Maryland's state attorney general, Douglas F. Gansler, has requested a Kilroy whitepaper that describes how ORCA's system can more accurately identify the sources of pollution in the bay. When Kilroy is deployed, it will allow coastal communities to 'see' the pollution – its origin, where it is migrating and the damage it creates along the way."

Through website imagery similar to weather maps seen on television, ORCA will report Kilroy water quality data to researchers and the public, and it will help initiate the crucial step of identifying conservation measures that can be adopted by local governments, residents and businesses such as industrial farmers, golf courses, fertilizer manufacturers and water treatment plants.

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