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Aquatic environments are extremely difficult for developing, deploying, and maintaining wireless sensor networks. Networks deployed in aquatic settings face multiple challenges, such as marine fowling of equipment, limited power supply, communications difficulties, and restricted accessibility for maintaining and updating sensor nodes. The SEMAT project is an initiative to create “smart”, low-cost, heterogeneous wireless sensor networks, tailored to alleviating the aforementioned constraints. Networks can be instantly deployable with minimal setup overheads and can utilise equipment from multiple vendors. This paper presents our experiences with developing the initial technologies to establish SEMAT for field tests. We present the design methodology and challenges faced for creating a marinebased heterogeneous wireless sensor network platform. The result is a low cost solution, with sufficient accuracy for undertaking a study into the factors contributing to Lyngbya algae blooms in Deception Bay, Queensland. The platform builds a case for the merits of the final SEMAT system, as ultimately many of the software and basic hardware challenges for future aquatic deployments have been overcome. This is significant as it allows researchers to focus on the area under study, rather than the specifics of setting up and managing the network.