Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 10:14am

An extraordinary new tool developed by some of our best researchers to protect Georgia's inland waterways by engaging the public that enjoys them the most:

In August 2014, dangerous levels of a toxin produced by harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie compromised the water supply in Toledo, Ohio, as well as many other smaller cities and towns. The bloom, spawned by large concentrations of cyanobacteria that occur naturally in all ecosystems, produced toxins that have broad implications for human health.

With large and small bodies of water in Georgia just as vulnerable to these blooms, researchers at the University of Georgia are working to develop an early warning system using social media platforms and cloud computing to crowdsource instances where further monitoring may be necessary.

The project—known as CyanoTRACKER—will use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to help identify localized blooms at lakes and ponds across Georgia.

The online tools will complement remote sensing of cyanobacteria outbreaks. Data from social media sites and the project website, cyanotracker.uga.edu, will be compiled, checked against sensor data or investigated further and used to alert local authorities about harmful algal blooms.

Great work by Lakshmish Ramaswamy and Suchendra Bhandarkar (computer science) and Deepak Mishra (geography). This highly creative monitoring system will make the most of existing sensor technology by leveraging its conneciton to cloud computing ad social media. Inventive scientific solutions for pressing issues from some of the world's leading thinkers, right here on campus.