Sydney Harbour Observatory

Sydney Harbour

Output of the Sydney Harbour Model


The vision is to deploy a network of sensors in strategically chosen locations within the Sydney estuary, capable of measuring selected variables such as salinity, water temperature, turbidity and currents, at different depths, and integrating these data with outputs from a hydrodynamic model of the waterway. The information is to be displayed in a near real-time visualisation and will be made available to researchers, industry and the public.

Project Outline

The University of Sydney, in collaboration with the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, CSIRO Hobart, Macquarie University and BoM are prototyping a marine observation system. The Observatory aims to provide automatic environmental monitoring and a tool for public distribution and ongoing research of the Sydney Harbour water body.

Coastal estuaries, such as Sydney Harbour, play important roles as a marine nursery, a commercial hub and as a location for recreation. Changes in the strength and location of the East Australian Current due to climate change will result in a change in the supply of land and ocean-derived nutrients needed to support the biological population of Sydney Harbour. The monitoring activity at Chowder Bay looks at the base of the marine food chain by measuring the phytoplankton concentration and relating it to environmental variables such as coastal upwelling, rainfall and aerial dust deposition. Detailed research is also taking place to understand how Sydney estuary responds to discharge of nutrients from the catchment and other contaminants across a variety of meteorological conditions and how climate change will impact on these relationships. These studies will enable researchers to start to address the question of how recreation, commercial activities, primary productivity and the ecology of Sydney Harbour will be affected by changes in these variables. As well the studies will lead to public accessible near real time display of variables such as currents, storm surge, water temperature and pollution levels.

At the heart of the project is a hydrodynamic model of the water properties verified by Serena Lee (Sydney University PhD student, under supervision of Gavin Birch). The study was previously collecting data manually using boat-deployed instruments, but is now supplementing this with continuous data from a solar-powered buoy which is moored at Chowder Bay. The plan is to ultimately install up to eight buoys throughout the estuary, but initially only one is installed as a proof-of-concept.

The CSIRO Hobart has also generously loaned a single marine sensor for the purpose of aiding the design of our prototype, as well as the use of their existing ICT infrastructure based in Hobart for the collection and storage of sensor data. There is potential to reuse many system components, including hardware and software developed during the TasMAN project, and gain significant leverage.

The project is being developed as a prototype because of the anticipated complexity in functional and technical requirements. The prototype may not be a fully functioning system, but aims to implement a working end-to-end solution with a viable technical architecture.

The project has the following deliverables:

  • The collection of data transmitted from a buoy fitted with marine sensors deployed in Chowder Bay, Sydney Harbour. The marine sensor transmits its observations via 3G to the SIMS server. The marine sensor will transmit water temperature taken at different depths, time of measurements and sensor identifier data.
  • A sensor network is overlayed onto a map view of Sydney Harbour and the user will have the ability to select the desired sensor node and display the sensor data. The user will also be able to plot the sensor time-series on a graph.
  • Apart from sensor data (which provides actual measurements), a hydrodynamic model of the Sydney estuary will be used to produce near real-time measurements. This model will be installed on a server provided by the university. The prototype will track the variables of salinity, water temperature, turbidity and currents. The model outputs will be displayed in a visualisation, which will include a map view of the Sydney Estuary, showing the model grid and allowing a user to select a grid cell to display the model outputs for that cell. The visualisation will also allow superimposing sensor and model outputs, to help verify model accuracy.
  • As this is a pilot only research groups will have access to the development system. Additionally the sensor data and model outputs will be archived at the University of Sydney. The application will provide the ability to display the sensor and model outputs for a time-period in the past and to the present.

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