IRO scientists join NASA's PACE to monitor algal blooms

NASA PACE satellite

PACE is NASA's Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem mission, currently in the design phase of mission development. It is scheduled to launch in 2022, extending and improving NASA's over 20-year record of satellite observations of global ocean biology, aerosols (tiny particles suspended in the atmosphere), and clouds. Image: NASA GSFC.

Two IRANZ members, Xerra Earth Observation Institute and the Cawthron Institute, are teaming up the University of Waikato as early adopters on the NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration PACE science mission.

Xerra senior scientist Dr Moritz Lehmann will work on the NASA PACE early adopter programme, along with scientists from across the globe, in order to advance research of global ocean colour, biogeochemistry, and ecology. Using data from the PACE mission, Dr Lehmann will be able to determine the extent and duration of harmful algal blooms in Aotearoa’s coastal waters and large lakes, in ways that have previously not been possible.

These blooms affect both commercial and recreational activities, in addition to harming ecological function and ecosystem health. Monitoring the patterns of harmful algal blooms requires an understanding of dispersion and growth dynamics and species distribution. The identification of potentially toxic versus non-toxic algae is possible with space-borne, high spectral resolution data, like that which will be collected by the PACE satellite sensor.

The collaboration of the three New Zealand research organisations aims to establish a research project to support routine monitoring of harmful algal blooms, as well as improve alert systems and inform the design of restoration activities.

Dr Lehman says he’s really excited to be involved in the early adopter programme. “It enables us as New Zealand scientists to communicate with NASA on how and why we are using their data. The programme also provides a forum for collaboration with the international scientific community to determine how PACE data can be used for improved monitoring and alert systems to protect the health and livelihoods of New Zealanders.”

Further information

Find out more about Xerra.

Find out more about the Cawthron Institute.

Find out more about NASA's PACE science mission.

Read the article in the Otago Daily Times, Satellite monitor of NZ’s algal blooms.

Date posted: 14 August 2020

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