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E-tracers: Development of a low cost wireless technique for exploring sub-surface hydrological systems


Elizabeth A. Bagshaw, Queens School of Engineering, University of Bristol, University Walk, Bristol BS8 1TR, UK



This briefing describes the first deployment of a new electronic tracer (E-tracer) for obtaining along-flowpath measurements in subsurface hydrological systems. These low-cost, wireless sensor platforms were deployed into moulins on the Greenland Ice Sheet. After descending into the moulin, the tracers travelled through the subglacial drainage system before emerging at the glacier portal. They are capable of collecting along-flowpath data from the point of injection until detection. The E-tracers emit a radio frequency signal, which enables sensor identification, location and recovery from the proglacial plain. The second generation of prototype E-tracers recorded water pressure, but the robust sensor design provides a versatile platform for measuring a range of parameters, including temperature and electrical conductivity, in hydrological environments that are challenging to monitor using tethered sensors. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.