Tools & Technology

TERC research vessel on the moveResearch Vessels 

UC Davis maintains three research vessels, the R/V John Le Conte, R/V Bob Richards, and R/V Ted Frantz. These boats are moored at the Tahoe City Marina in Tahoe City, California.

The Flagship R/V John Le Conte was custom build by Freeman Marine in Gold Beach, Oregon. It was specifically designed to do a broad range of limnological research projects on Lake Tahoe. Hull and Superstructure is Heliarc welded 1061 Kaiser Aluminum. Powered by a Detroit Diesel 6V-53, 180 HP engine driving a 24" diameter stainless steel propeller. Twin Disc Power Take-Off runs 10 and 20 GPM hydraulic pumps powering a 4-spool Kohlstrand guardie winch and two Gearmatic 4000 lb. pull large winches with 1/4" and 1/2" wire ropes 3000 ft. long to reach the lake bottom.


NASA buoyNASA Buoys

UC Davis TERC and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Jet Propulsion Lab (NASA/JPL) have 6 large buoys on Lake Tahoe. Measurements are being used to understand the factors affecting the health of the lake and calibrate satellite instruments. Locations of each buoy may vary by up to 500 feet depending on wind conditions.

Offshore measurements include bulk temperature, skin temperature, air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, relative humidity, and net radiation. 
Onshore measurements include air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, relative humidity, short and longwave radiation (up and down), sky imager, aerosols, and total column water. 



Storm Petrel gliderGliders

TERC researchers deployed an autonomous underwater glider named Storm Petrel in order to study how Lake Tahoe responds to wind and storms. The glider propels itself using changes in its buoyancy, can explore the lake for months at a time, periodically uploading data via satellite. Storm Petrel, whose maiden voyage was in Antarctica previously collecting data on the temperature, chlorophyll, and dissolved oxygen content of the water. All of these parameters will help researchers at TERC understand changes in the lake over time. 






TERC has released swarms of floating drifters in Lake Tahoe to help map the motions of the surface currents. The drifters communicate their positions via satellite every 10 seconds. Four experiments have been conducted since December 2012. While in theory the drifters communicate their position in real-time, after they wash up on a beach this ability is lost. Thank you to all those members of the public who helped in finding and returning errant drifters!





Nearshore sensorNearshore Sensors

TERC has been working to launch a world-first, real-time nearshore water quality network at approximately 20 sites around the Tahoe basin. The first six Stations, spanning both California and Nevada, were launched in 2014. Each station measures water temperature, conductivity, water level, turbidity, algal concentration,  and dissolved organic material. Extra sensors can be added in the future as added funding is acquired. An underwater cable supplies power to each station and returns the data, which will be instantly displayed on the internet via the Tahoe In Depth Touchscreen displays available in the Tahoe Science Center and the Tahoe City Visitor Center




Millipore Milli-Q water systemDeionized Millipore Milli-Q water system

Tap water flows through a pre-filter, through an Elix-10 system, and into a 100 liter tank. From the 100 liter tank, the water then flows through the Milli-Q Gradient system and finally is brought down to a 0.22 µm particle size or smaller. At the point of use dispenser, this Deionized (DI) water is free of ions or contaminants greater than 0.22 µm. DI is ultra-pure water, with no positively or no negatively charged ions.  DI water is the backbone of a chemistry laboratory studying lake water.  This water is used in many ways. It acts as a control sample, in order to compare standards (known values) and lake/stream water samples in nutrient colorimetric chemistry.  Secondly, Lake Tahoe water is so low in nutrients that the chemists use it to meticulously clean chemistry glassware in order to see differences between DI water and Lake Tahoe water. 

Isotemp Muffle Furnace, model #550-126Isotemp Muffle Furnace, model #550-126

This muffle furnace has a temperature range between 50°C- 1125°C. The set point accuracy of this instrument is ±15°C. In our limnology lab is used to clean glassware, metal and glass fiber filters so they are devoid of carbon.  Usually, we use it at 500°C (or 932°F) and cook the items for a couple of hours.  This ensures there is no carbon contamination on equipment before use in the measurement for carbon in water samples.







Isotemp Drying Oven, model # 750GIsotemp Drying Oven, model #750G

This drying oven is an Isotemp brand, model #750G. The temperature range can be set between 50°C-275°C. At 200°C the accuracy of this instrument ±3.0°C. At TERC a drying oven used in the field of limnology to evaporate water from filtered water samples. Water samples may be filtered for the following analyses: algae, fish, benthic invertebrates, soil. Once the sample is filtered, the filter itself is placed into a drying oven in order to evaporate and dry all water from the filter before analysis.







Meteorological Network
Lake Mapping