Recent advances in open-source microcontrollers like Arduino has allowed the development of low-cost sensors for oceanographic and other environmental measurements. These low-cost, “DIY” sensors have numerous advantages over commercially available sensors, including greater flexibility in settings, reproducibility in large quantities, and applications in high-risk environments.

Emily recently teamed up with Ted Langhorst (UNC-CH) and Evan Goldstein (UNC-G) to create open-source optical backscatter sensors, or OpenOBSs. These sensors provide similar measurement capability as commercial turbidity sensors, but can be produced for ~5% of the cost. For more information, please see our project website at

and Ted’s GitHub page at

The OpenOBSs have been utilized in several environments including coastal Greenland (Gregor Lutzenburg) and coastal North Carolina (Josh Himmelstein). We are presently working to expand the design to include remote data transmission as part of a new NSF project focused on the Tanana River in Alaska.

Project paper

Eidam, E. F., Langhorst, T., Goldstein, E. B., & McLean, M. (2022). OpenOBS: Open‐source, low‐cost optical backscatter sensors for water quality and sediment‐transport research. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods, 20(1), 46-59.


This work was funded by a UNC Reynolds Foundation grant to E. Eidam

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