You’ve heard of the iPhone and the iPod, but what about the iButton?

It’s a data recorder that looks like a watch battery, and there’s one collecting temperature data on the seafloor of Howe Sound right at this moment. The iButton is protected by a weighted housing of PVC pipes. The “temperature logger” was designed by Glen Dennison, a local citizen scientist who is using this technology to collect temperature data near vulnerable sponge reefs.

The iButton (right) and its protective casing.

The iButton (right) and its protective casing.

The iButton collects temperature data every hour in an area of cold-water upwelling at one side of a glass sponge reef. It’s currently resting at about 12 metres (40 feet) and will be left there for a couple of months.

Once Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre researchers download the info, they will have baseline data they can refer to as conditions change. The temperatures on this side of the reef will be compared to the other side, which doesn’t see any cold-water upwelling. These data will be important to monitor animal health and biodiversity changes in an ocean we know is warming.

The temperature logger is weighted down by rocks.

The temperature logger is weighted down by rocks.

Laura Borden, an Aquarium research analyst, says the information collected from Howe Sound is especially important. “It’s a fjord and it’s really unique,” she said. “There’s a great freshwater influence because of the mountain run-off and the Squamish River.”

While Aquarium researchers collect oceanographic data they also continue to monitor biodiversity, most notably rockfishes and lingcod.

The oceans are changing – this much we know – but without baseline data, we can’t understand by how much. Jessica Schultz, research coordinator and Laura’s colleague,  sums it up by saying, “We don’t even know the basics of the ocean yet.”

Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.

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