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A PCB Sensor for Improving Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nesting Research
Keywords: PCB sensor, environmental sensing, electrical conductivity
Loggerhead sea turtles are an endangered species of sea turtle that are found worldwide. Although they spend most of their lives at sea, the females come ashore to lay their eggs in nests on beaches. Much research has been done to investigate how the turtles select their nesting sites along beaches. Several beach parameters have been suggested as possible factors for nest site selection: temperature of the sand, moisture of the sand, salinity of the sand, and slope of the beach. The salinity of the sand is determined by measuring the electrical conductivity of an aqueous solution prepared from mixing a precise mass of the dried sand into a known volume of deionized water, since salinity is proportional to electrical conductivity. Typically, 50 g of dried sand is mixed into 50 mL of deionized water. This yields a solution with an electrical conductivity that can be measured with commercially available electrical conductivity meters. However, the quantity of beach sand required could limit the number of measurements made at a nest site in order to avoid disturbing the nest. A technique for accurately measuring the electrical conductivity using a much smaller quantity of sand would allow for more salinity testing locations around a nest site without adversely affecting it. Low-cost commercial printed circuit board (PCB) technology has been demonstrated as a viable low-cost platform for environmental sensors. With this technology, planar-electrode electrical conductivity sensors can be realized with relatively large electrodes, resulting in a sensor capable of measuring much lower electrical conductivity values than can typically be measured using commercially available parallel-plate style electrical conductivity sensors. Using this type of sensor, electrical conductivity measurements were made on sand samples from a beach near a Loggerhead turtle nesting site, requiring only 2 g of dried sand from each testing location. This much smaller quantity of sand required for each electrical conductivity measurement would allow for many more electrical conductivity testing locations at a nest site without adversely affecting the nest.
Rebecca E. Dean, student
Auburn University
Auburn, AL
United States

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