Outbreaks of harmful algae have increased in recent years due to warming trends and longer summer seasons. Also called cyanobacterial algal blooms or CyanoHABs, these large-scale ecological disturbances are often caused by increased urbanization, nutrient pollution, poor waste management and warming weather. The algae can produce toxins that are harmful to humans, pets and aquatic ecosystems.
The CyanoTRACKER project, a collaboration between University of Georgia researchers, collects and integrates community reports, remote sensing data and digital image analytics to detect and differentiate between regular algal blooms and CyanoHABs.
It is the first early reporting system of its kind.
In 2015, the research team completed a pilot study focused solely on Georgia waters. This summer the team published a new study expanded to include global bodies of water and reporting.
“Not all CyanoHAB outbreaks are toxic, but that is why it’s so important to have early reporting,” said Deepak Mishra, lead author and associate head of the department of geography. “Once we know about the bloom, we can notify authorities to test the water directly and take action.”