The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded BGSU a $349,000 grant to continue monitoring water quality in Lake Erie using remote sensing technology.
Last year, the University received about $435,000 from the federal agency for the monitoring work, said Dr. Robert Vincent, geology. Vincent is leading the pilot project, which uses satellite data obtained through remote sensing to monitor cyanobacterial blooms in the lake. Cyanobacteria are especially harmful algal blooms because they sometimes produce toxins that can sicken or even kill humans and other mammals, as well as fish.
“It is important that Americans understand that this is not a regional problem—the deterioration of the Great Lakes affects the country as a whole,” said U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who helped secure the NOAA funding through the U.S. Department of Commerce. Voinovich is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
“I’m so glad to have it,” said Vincent about the grant, for which he also credited U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-Tiffin). “This is critically important to the Great Lakes region,” Vincent added, because “so many people drink water out of the Great Lakes.”
Scientists at Heidelberg College, the University of Toledo, and Central State and Cleveland State universities are also involved with the project, which uses maps derived from LANDSAT satellite data to pinpoint the algal blooms. Peaking in September or October, this year’s blooms might be the biggest ever, owing largely to heavy runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus from farm fields into the lake’s tributaries, as well as warm weather, Vincent said.
BGSU has patented Vincent’s algorithm (or “recipe”) for converting LANDSAT data to images that show where early blooms of cyanobacteria are occurring in a body of water. The University and Vincent believe this will also be important for monitoring drinking-water reservoirs in Ohio and worldwide.
A BGSU faculty member since 1993, he wrote Fundamentals of Geological and Environmental Remote Sensing, an early textbook on the subject, in 1997. He is also a founder and former director of OhioView, a remote sensing consortium of 12 public research universities in the state.