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.
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.
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!
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.