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File Photo The buoy launched by Xiaodong Zhang and his University of North Dakota colleagues to monitor water quality in the Devils Lake basin.

UND’s lost buoy found near shore of Devils Lake

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GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota’s lost buoy has been found safe and sound in Devils Lake by university pilots conducting an aerial search, according to the university scientist whose department owns it.

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The problem is it’s stuck in frozen mud along the shoreline and professor Xiadong Zhang said he couldn’t get it to budge this week. “It’s so hard, like concrete.”

He said he’ll try to thaw the mud after the holidays.

The $30,000 scientific instrument disappeared about two months ago, when it sent its last report by radio. UND’s Department of Earth System Science and Policy used it to monitor water quality in the flooded lake.

Zhang said the meteorological sensor attached to the top of the buoy is safe, but he worries the water sensor attached to the bottom has been ruined by the ice.

It took less than a day for two flight instructors in a Schweitzer 300 helicopter to locate the buoy last week, according to Dick Schultz, UND Aerospace’s director of flight operations.

From his knowledge of Devils Lake, he said, he narrowed the search area to the main bay. It was unlikely the buoy would have gone under the bridges separating the main bay from the other bays, he said.

The pilots eventually found the buoy hung up in some dead trees in the waters close to shore, he said.

Zhang and Schultz asked that the exact location of where the buoy was found not be revealed since it does have some value, though Zhang has said it’s unlikely a layperson would have any use for the water sensor.

Schultz said they’re trying to think of a way to thaw the mud and get the buoy out.

It first went in the water in fall 2011 as part of a $3 million project funded by NASA. UND’s goal is to figure out how the saltiness of the water changes as the lake floods and as the climate of the region changes.

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Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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