Civil Engineering ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 8-1-2023


Most freshwater aquatic studies rely on Eulerian monitoring, i.e., water quality and quantity are monitored using grab samples or semi-continuous sensors deployed at fixed cross-sections. While Eulerian monitoring is practical, it provides a limited understanding of spatial and temporal heterogeneity and their effects on environmental processes. This dissertation summarizes the design and application of The Navigator, an alternative Lagrangian monitoring system that offers cost-effective solutions for in-situ, real-time data collection in lotic and lentic freshwater ecosystems such as streams, rivers, ponds, and reservoirs. The Navigator features a suite of methods – an autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) with GPS and LTE connectivity, water quality sensors, depth sonar, computer vision camera, cloud computing, and a real-time webpage dashboard to visualize data. With these technologies, The Navigator provides insight into where, how, and why water quality and quantity change in time and space as it moves through the current or flows following user-specified pathways.

First, we tested our prototype of The Navigator in the monitoring of water quality parameters at high spatial-temporal resolution along the Rio Grande and a retention pond in Albuquerque, NM. Then, we deployed the Navigator to quantify experimental mixing lengths downstream of the outfall of a wastewater treatment plant in the Rio Grande near Albuquerque, NM, under various flow regimes. Lastly, we deployed The Navigator to examine the role of Santa Rosa Lake in attenuating the propagation of wildfire disturbances generated 170 km upstream during and after the Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon wildfire. Using Lagrangian monitoring, we quantified changes in water density, turbidity, and other water quality parameters along the river-lake section.


surface freshwater, lagrangian monitoring, autonomous surface vehicle (ASV), water quality.

Document Type




Degree Name

Civil Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Civil Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Ricardo González-Pinzón

Second Committee Member

Dr. David Van Horn

Third Committee Member

Dr. Mark Stone

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Stefan Krause


I have filed an embargo for this dissertation because of a pending patent.