Sea Invaders: The Effect of Harmful Algal Blooms on our Economy and Environment
Team Location: NASA Ames Research Center
Authors: Caitlin Jensen, San Francisco State University; Raymond Rothwell, San Francisco State University; Evan Johnson, University of California, Los Angeles; Maanya Condamoor, University of California, Los Angeles; Mihir Patil, Monta Vista High School.
Advisors/Mentors: Cindy Schmidt, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California; Dr. Laurence Breaker, Moss Landing Marine Laboratory, Moss Landing, California; Dr. John Largier, University of California-Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory.
Other Acknowledgements: Dr. Gregg Langlois, California Department of Public Health; Dr. Laura Rogers-Bennett, UC-Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory; Dr. Jim Moore, UC-Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory.
Abstract: Algal blooms are a natural phenomena consisting of the rapid growth of phytoplankton populations. Some blooms have negative ecological or public health effects due to toxin production and removal of oxygen from the water column. In recent years, such “harmful algal blooms” (HABs) have been linked to human illness, economic loss from decreased fishing, and ecological damage related to marine life mortality and eutrophication. This study tracked the space-time pattern of numerous blooms during August-October 2011, using multiple NASA Earth observing systems in an effort to quantify and understand the structure of these recurrent bloom events. Aqua MODIS images were used to quantify surface chlorophyll-α levels, to map the extent and development of all autumn algal blooms. The relation between sea-surface temperature, ocean-surface topography, and algal blooms was further explored with AVHRR and Jason-2 satellite data. A Generalized Additive Model (GAM) was used to identify the environmental factors most statistically influential in algal blooms and specifically in HAB events. Results from this study will assist California’s departments of Public Health and Fish and Game in mitigating and managing the impact of future harmful algal blooms.