NASA's eyes in sky to help agencies monitor algae blooms
Together with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and U.S. Geological Survey, NASA will use ocean color satellite data to help create an early-warning gauge to monitor toxic and nuisance algal blooms in freshwater systems.
Under certain environmental conditions, naturally occurring algae may multiply rapidly, creating a bloom. Some species produce toxins that can kill wildlife and cause illness in humans through exposure to contaminated water, fish or shellfish. These alga species, called cyanobacteria, pose a global environmental threat due to their dense biomass, toxins, taste and odor.
In attaining a better vantage point of the world’s waterways to help process data, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, "We're excited to be putting NASA's expertise in space and scientific exploration to work protecting public health and safety."
Ocean color satellite data is currently available to scientists, and with NASA’s assistance, the data can be converted to a more accessible format visible through web portals and mobile devices.
"Observations from space-based instruments are an ideal way to tackle this type of public health hazard,” Paula Bontempi, ocean biology and biogeochemistry program manager in NASA's Earth Science Division, said.
"This collaboration will assure that NOAA's efforts will assist the coastal and inland public health officials and managers across the country to distribute this information to the community in an easily understandable fashion, making them more resilient to environmental events." Holly Bamford, an NOAA acting assistant secretary, said.