How to Build a Better Tide Machine

As an experimental ecologist working in an intertidal system, my life was quite literally dictated by the tides throughout grad school. Bringing organisms that run on a cycle of being out of the water for 6 hours and then in for 6 hours and then out for 6 hours and then in for 6 hours into a laboratory/mesocosm setting presents a whole new awful set of challenges.

Due to the fact that many of these critters are physiologically influenced by this tidal pattern means that you too have to run on the same schedule making sure that any experimental tank systems are set up to ebb and flow with the motion of the ocean.

In case you were wondering, yes this did suck.

However, after a couple of months, our lab group started experimenting with a few different ways to do this tidal shift automatically for both rocky intertidal and estuarine environments (necessity is the mother of invention and all that).

Though my particular experiment was run on a different system, my advisor, Dr. Jeremy Long, and Stanford University Postdoc Luke Miller, did figure out a way to build a pretty swanky tidal control system.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 3.30.14 PM

Published recently in PeerJ, Long and Miller created this system using an Arduino controller set-up to fluctuate their tidal system. You can find the DIY Tide Controller directions on Luke’s Science version of Pintrest.


Miller LP, Long JD. (2015A tide prediction and tide height control system for laboratory mesocosmsPeerJ 3:e1442

Alex Warneke (111 Posts)

Alex currently resides as a Science Communicator for the National Park Service, where she inspires thousands a year to love the watery world. Alex earned her Masters degree in chemical ecology from San Diego State University investigating the effects of heavy metal pollutants on the chemical communication between organisms. In her “free time,” Alex enjoys convincing the public that Ecology is indeed sexy. With that goal, she is a strong proponent of unconventional science communication and extending the broader impacts of science to the general public using the outlets of film and social media. When she is not busy busting a move or filming her next rap video, she can normally be found frolicking through the California kelp forest.

2 Replies to “How to Build a Better Tide Machine”

  1. Arduinos are such fun to play with. Just sophisticated enough to do really interesting things, and cheap enough and easy enough to work with that you don’t need to be a guru to play with them.

    A bit of competition in that space, though, from the Raspberry Pi Zero – similar price, /far/ more powerful (and with USB host support, meaning you can connect a much broader range of input devices). And you can program them with /anything/, including Python or even something like Basic if you really wanted to.

Comments are closed.