There are several academic as well as educational reasons for creating a cabled observatory in Portage Bay.
Cabled observatories allow for a continuous stream of data to be collected from multiple different types of sensors simultaneously. A continuous data stream can provide information about temporal variations in observed parameters that may not be captured during shipboard sampling. In an urban environment like Portage Bay, frequent measurements are valuable as they can be related directly to known anthropogenic events, such as a sewer overflow event. Additionally, allowing multiple sensor types to be stationed in one location can enhance the overall understanding of the observing site and provide a more complete picture of the environmental processes occurring at the station.
Cabled observatories are also relatively inexpensive to operate and maintain, given the amount of data they provide. Unlike shipboard expeditions, once an observing station is set up, it requires very little on-site maintained and is thus, fairly inexpensive. Expenses associated with shipboard expeditions, such as ship, crew, and instrument time, do not apply for an observatory station. Additionally, observatories can be located in difficult to reach locations. The ERIS observatory is located in such shallow water that regular shipboard measurements would be difficult and potentially dangerous to perform.
These observing stations are also highly flexible, and can be adapted to measure a wide range of parameters. Data collection for individual sensors can be remotely controlled from land; no physical retrieval of data from the stationed instruments is required.
Educationally, ERIS is a valuable teaching resource for the University of Washington. Students involved in the ERIS program will learn about how to plan, implement, monitor, and repair components of a cabled observatory. More generally, they will also be exposed to a dynamic student-led project that will expose them to the challenges of coordinating with peers from various educational backgrounds on a complex, multidisciplinary project. Students will practice scientific writing, data analysis, engineering design, scientific theory, public speaking, and many other valuable skills that will prove valuable in their future careers. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to work on a hands-on oceanography project closely with faculty and potentially with other experts in the field.