JUN 24, 2019 2:36 PM PDT

New Mobile App Monitors Harmful Algal Blooms

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

Have you heard of a red tide? A red tide is a type of “harmful algal bloom,” an occurrence that has been reported in every coastal state in the United States. Microscopic algae occur naturally in small numbers in all bodies of water. Harmful algal blooms occur when these algae undergo a rapid growth period that may become toxic and harm animals, people, and the environment in which the bloom is occurring. Climate change and nutrient runoff may be increasing the frequency of these events. Resources to monitor where and when harmful algal blooms may be occurring are limited.

A new mobile app (currently only for Android users and available through the EPA or Google Play) from the multi-agency Cyanobacteria Assessment Network (CyAN) will use satellite technology through NASA to alert officials when a harmful algal bloom may be forming. CyAN also includes the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In a press release from NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center lead for CyAN Jeremy Werdell stated, “resources are limited, and it’s not possible for everyone on the ground to be monitoring all inland water bodies all of the time. Satellites are providing a tool to help inform how and when to expend resources to go and collect water samples.” 

Although harmful algal blooms consist of microscopic algae, large aggregations appear as large green patches from space. Algal blooms also emit fluorescence, which helps satellites detect their presence. NASA/USGS Landsat satellites, the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Senteinel-2 and Copernicus Senteinel-3, and a few other satellites feature instrumentation to detect the presence of algae and relay that information to NASA supercomputers. NASA computers then create weekly reports detailing algal conditions in more than 2,000 lakes throughout the United States. If a lake is bloom free, it will appear green on the mobile app. Yellow will indicate that algae are present, and red will indicate that a bloom is present.

In addition to aiding water quality officials, this new app may be useful to the public seeking recreational areas. Donalea Dinsmore from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources told NASA “each summer, the department receives questions about whether the green muck floating on lakes is harmful, or reports of dogs sickened after swimming in or drinking from a lake.”

Sources: NASA, NOAA

About the Author
BS Biology
Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
AUG 11, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
How To Eliminate the Smell of Cannabis
AUG 11, 2022
How To Eliminate the Smell of Cannabis
Want to know how to get rid of the lingering odor of cannabis? Here's some tips.
AUG 17, 2022
Earth & The Environment
The Wreck of The Endurance Has Been Discovered in Antarctica
AUG 17, 2022
The Wreck of The Endurance Has Been Discovered in Antarctica
The expedition of Endurance was one of the legends. It is one of the most harrowing survival stories in naval history.
AUG 24, 2022
Microbiology
This Bizarre Spiky Sack Turns Out Not to be Our Earliest Ancestor
AUG 24, 2022
This Bizarre Spiky Sack Turns Out Not to be Our Earliest Ancestor
It was once hypothesized that a strange, microscopic creature called Saccorhytus, a spiked animal with no anus, was the ...
AUG 25, 2022
Cancer
Nearly Half of Global Cancer Deaths Attributed to Behavioral Risk Factors
AUG 25, 2022
Nearly Half of Global Cancer Deaths Attributed to Behavioral Risk Factors
Cancer is a broad description of various related diseases resulting from abnormal and excessive cell growth.  While ...
SEP 13, 2022
Cardiology
Extreme Weather Threatens Heart Health
SEP 13, 2022
Extreme Weather Threatens Heart Health
Both unusually cold and unusually hot weather have been linked to heart disease deaths.
SEP 15, 2022
Technology
Scientists Develop Perovskite Solar Cell That Has Greater Efficiency & Stability
SEP 15, 2022
Scientists Develop Perovskite Solar Cell That Has Greater Efficiency & Stability
In a recent study published in Nature, a team of researchers led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in B ...
Loading Comments...