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Geospatial tech helps track blue-green algae

Australia: The blue-green algae have plagued Australia’s coasts for years. Now a new GIS surveying technology makes tracking the blooms more efficient. An American company, Blue Water Satellite processes raw data from two Landsat USGS satellites using proprietary algorithms. The system combs every pixel of an area for signs of toxic algae activity. The technology relies on identifying the levels of total phosphorescence of every single pixel of a scanned image.

Dramatic heat-map like pictures are produced, allowing researchers to focus on areas that contain high levels of contamination. Using total phosphorescence, researchers are able to see measurements of chlorophyll-a, cyanobacteria, and phosphorous in the water and even surface soils.

“Previous attempts to monitor the cyanobacteria have seen success, but the processes used were not aggressive enough,” said Jim Harpen, Manager of Business Development and collaborations for Blue Water Satellite. “They have been testing for cyanobacteria in Australia for years, but all they had been doing was taking a few litres of water and sending them to labs for analysis.”

Harpen added the spot sampling method did not do enough to determine the location and drift of a body of water over thousands of acres in size and simply expanding the number of spot sampling sites would be impractical.

Source: Lake Scientist