Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System

The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) supports the use and management of a healthy Chesapeake Bay by providing the data and information needed to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect the environment. The data are also being used in classrooms throughout the watershed to complement science education. The system's observing platforms are often called "smart buoys" because they continuously relay information to users in real time using wireless technology.

NOAA CBIBS “smart buoys”:

These buoys provide users, including scientists, boaters, and students, with information they need. Scientists use data to further protect, restore, and manage the Chesapeake Bay. Students can learn about the Bay and their environment by exploring the data. And boaters can plan a safer day by knowing the conditions on the Bay before they leave harbor.

NOAA CBIBS currently delivers data from 10 high-tech buoys monitoring key areas throughout Bay and a robust, real-time data delivery system. Current and archived data collected by CBIBS sensors is available on the web at, by phone at 877-BUOY-BAY, and via applications for Android and iPhone smartphones.

CBIBS offers an ideal platform to allow for the seamless integration of data into existing and new education programs in the region. A cutting-edge high school science curriculum, Chesapeake Exploration, based on CBIBS data is under development. NOAA has also developed the Basic Observation Buoy (BOB), an inexpensive, classroom-built buoy that supports scientific inquiry by students. Other NOAA education programs in the Chesapeake Bay also emphasize the use of CBIBS:

Why Are They Needed?

The buoys are an important part of the comprehensive monitoring strategy for the Chesapeake Bay called for in the Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration Executive Order, which was signed by President Barack Obama in 2009. The Order directs NOAA to engage in monitoring that provides scientific support for decisionmakers in the Bay watershed. The NOAA CBIBS “smart buoys” are key to this effort because they fill critical observational gaps, including main stem real-time observations that were largely absent prior to the development of the system. As the Executive Order astutely identifies, “you cannot recognize, understand, improve or maintain what you do not or cannot measure.”

CBIBS provides critical observations to the Chesapeake Bay Observing System, a subregional component of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). IOOS is a coordinated network of people and technology that works together to generate and disseminate continuous data on coastal waters, the Great Lakes, and oceans. IOOS is a high priority for NOAA, and CBIBS assists the agency in meeting local observational needs that contribute to this national system. In particular, CBIBS serves the needs of:

  • regional Chesapeake Bay resource managers (who track data on water quality and water temperature)
  • NOAA Weather Forecast Offices (who use data wind and waves from the buoys)
  • educators (using data from the buoys in the classroom, new high school science curriculum)
  • Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historical Trail and other recreational users (who seek historical/cultural information; water temperature and waves for kayakers, sailors, and swimmers)
  • commercial and recreational fishermen