NASA Interns Track Algae Blooms

Thanks to NASA interns Tiffani, Sam, and Haley for their work on Lake Champlain. Photo by NASA.

A team of student interns working with NASA has developed a model that interprets data collected from satellites to detect and track algae blooms on Lake Champlain. The three young researchers, Tiffani Orne from Liberty University, Hayley Solak from Clark University, and Sam Weber from Virginia Tech, conducted their work from afar, under the guidance of Dr. Kenton Ross. The team consulted with LCC throughout the project. The use of satellite imagery provides information about the entire lake while current monitoring approaches sample individual points around the lake.

The team used sophisticated imaging tools and existing data to create a series of maps showing changes in chlorophyll-a, phycocyanin, cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), and total suspended sediment (TSS) between 2002 and 2013. Chlorophyll-a and phycocyanin are pigments produced by blue-green algae and thus another measure of the algae’s presence. Total suspended sediment is a source of nutrients for the algae and also an indicator of how muddy the water appears.

The project was taken on as part of NASA’s DEVELOP National Program. Interns work in ten-week terms to analyze societal and scientific dilemmas and discover ways in which these issues can be better predicted, monitored or mitigated through the application of NASA Earth observations. DEVELOP is designed to foster an interdisciplinary research environment where applied science research projects are conducted under the guidance of NASA and partner science advisors. Young professionals lead research projects that focus on utilizing NASA Earth observations to address community concerns and public policy issues. LCC congratulates the team on a job well done!