Bob Chen ~ Urban Oceanographer

Coastal Environmental Sensing Networks

Weather instrument
Dr. Bob Chen is founder and Director of the Coastal Environmental Sensing Networks (CESN) at UMass Boston, which brings together university researchers, Massachusetts business and industry leaders, and state and federal decision-makers, to provide an integrated framework for developing environmental sensor networks. "Because the coastal ocean and estuary interface is very complicated, we need new instrumentation to be able to measure dissolved organic carbon cycling through those nearshore waters," says Bob. "CESN is a collaboration between environmental scientists, biologists and computer scientists, trying to look at this problem of lots of interactions in the nearshore coastal zone." Standard oceanographic instrumentation can't solve those problems, in fact can't even observe them. CESN is developing and deploying new instruments to monitor and measure nearshore processes through wireless sensing networks. "We want to get that data out to the people who can use it, the endusers, whether they are in education, government, nonprofit, or industry," says Bob. CESN is working with NOAA on sea level gauging and with state officials on monitoring bacterial water quality.

Bob's ability to found and direct CESN is a direct outgrowth of his work in COSEE, using the skills honed in his work in education and outreach. "It's a collaboration, pulling people from different disciplines together, crossing not just science and education but cutting across disciplines," he says. "It's using the interdisciplinary, multi-culture piece of how to work across those disciplines to some favorable result."

"The ability to direct CESN is directly tied to my work in education."
Future plans for CESN Establish four stations within the Neponset watershed to provide continuous measurements instead of those collected once a month by Bob's graduate students. Place an autonomous underwater vehicle in Boston Harbor to monitor episodic events. Expand the collaboration, working with MIT SeaGrant on Coastal Observation Sensing In Nearshore Environments (COSINE), partnering with the computer science department at Boston University and environmental modelers at Northeastern University. "We're doing what COSEE New England did," says Bob, "starting with a collaboration here at UMass and expanding to other universities."