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 (112 Posts)

Alex is committed to a life of inspiring others to view science through a more dynamic and empowering lens. Alex obtained her M.Sc. in Chemical Ecology from San Diego State University and most recently resided as a Science Programs Manager and Marine Scientist for the National Park Service. As an ecologist, storyteller, and community engager, she has spanned critical boundaries between stakeholders in education, academia, non-profit, and government to translate the most current scientific bodies of work in ways that are accessible and inclusive. She is a strong proponent of unconventional science communication and extending the broader impacts of science to the public using the outlets of art, digital media, education, and citizen science. Currently, Alex works at the interface of climate resilience and community with the Climate Science Alliance. As Deputy Director for the Alliance, her hope is that through her work and experience she can get the world to think differently about how we connect and impact the thriving ecosystem around us and commit to fostering a more resilient future.

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.

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