Protecting Our Water: NASA takes to the skies to help monitor up - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Protecting Our Water: NASA takes to the skies to help monitor upcoming algal bloom

(Source: WTOL) (Source: WTOL)
(Source: NASA Glenn Research Center) (Source: NASA Glenn Research Center)
(Source: NASA Glenn Research Center) (Source: NASA Glenn Research Center)
(Source: NASA Glenn Research Center) (Source: NASA Glenn Research Center)
(Source: NASA Glenn Research Center) (Source: NASA Glenn Research Center)
  • Special ReportsMore>>

  • In the air: Just how germy are those hand dryers in public bathrooms?

    In the air: Just how germy are those hand dryers in public bathrooms?

    Monday, June 25 2018 5:45 PM EDT2018-06-25 21:45:19 GMT
    You probably do it without any thought, put your hands under the dryer after washing your hands at a public restroom. Have you every thought about what exactly is being blown onto your hands? Think about it, every time you flush, fecal bacteria may be shooting up into the air. In a recent national study, scientists say from there, it goes into the hand dryer and onto your hands.  "Just wash my hands, put them under there. Don't really give it no thought," Toledo resid...More >>
    You probably do it without any thought, put your hands under the dryer after washing your hands at a public restroom. Have you every thought about what exactly is being blown onto your hands? Think about it, every time you flush, fecal bacteria may be shooting up into the air. In a recent national study, scientists say from there, it goes into the hand dryer and onto your hands.  "Just wash my hands, put them under there. Don't really give it no thought," Toledo resid...More >>
  • The path to a debt-free education? Save early and often

    The path to a debt-free education? Save early and often

    Friday, June 15 2018 6:10 PM EDT2018-06-15 22:10:31 GMT

    Jonathan Sagaser is one of millions of American parents working to send his kids to college. "We had the inspiration to do it early on," he says. Jon and his wife own Sebastiano's Italian restaurant in South Toledo. Their three children, age six, four and two spend a lot of time there as the couple sometimes works 60 to 80 hours a week as small business owners. They plan to pay for half of each of their children's education. "I guess we just want to give them a little b...

    More >>

    Jonathan Sagaser is one of millions of American parents working to send his kids to college. "We had the inspiration to do it early on," he says. Jon and his wife own Sebastiano's Italian restaurant in South Toledo. Their three children, age six, four and two spend a lot of time there as the couple sometimes works 60 to 80 hours a week as small business owners. They plan to pay for half of each of their children's education. "I guess we just want to give them a little b...

    More >>
  • Day tripping: Have an adventure without busting your budget

    Day tripping: Have an adventure without busting your budget

    Tuesday, June 12 2018 10:40 AM EDT2018-06-12 14:40:18 GMT
    (Source: WTOL)(Source: WTOL)

    We're all familiar with our fantastic metroparks, the Toledo Zoo and the Toledo Museum of Art. We have our staples, but if you're up for an adventure this summer, and need to watch your wallet, you need ideas and advice. “The more you can be out and about doing things, the less time they're spending in front of a tablet or a TV,” said Jen Sherwin.  Between nieces and nephews, babysitting, and her own child, Sherwin has finding things to do down to a science.

    More >>

    We're all familiar with our fantastic metroparks, the Toledo Zoo and the Toledo Museum of Art. We have our staples, but if you're up for an adventure this summer, and need to watch your wallet, you need ideas and advice. “The more you can be out and about doing things, the less time they're spending in front of a tablet or a TV,” said Jen Sherwin.  Between nieces and nephews, babysitting, and her own child, Sherwin has finding things to do down to a science.

    More >>
CLEVELAND, OH (WTOL) -

The beginning of another algal bloom season in Lake Erie is only a couple of months away and concerns about toxic algae and the effects on our water quality will rise once again.

To help communities like Toledo respond to the blooms, the agency famous for space exploration is taking to the skies.
 
At the front of their complex in West Cleveland, a sign at the NASA Glenn Research Center says “For the benefit of all.” It’s a clear message that NASA is ready to help in the battle against algae.
 
Pilot Jim Demers was behind the controls of a flight in August 2015 that was part of NASA's mission to monitor Lake Erie for growth and progression of algal blooms. They were working on sensor technology for aircraft, when Toledo's water crisis was caused by toxic algae in 2014.

“As things evolved, we started realizing, hey we've got a fairly large role in this, and it's an important role and we really don't want to mess it up,” Demers said.   

The aerial view of Lake Erie showed the algae that had formed in the water in 2015. There were big blotches of algae that could only be seen from this perspective.

“It can go from a very high density to a very low density in a very short time,” said John Lekki, Principal Algal Bloom Investigator for NASA. “So if you're out in a boat, and you're taking a single measurement, you might just be in a point that's really high or really low, and you might have a very strong algal bloom right next to you, maybe a few hundred meters away. So this from the aircraft lets us get a perspective as to how strong the algal bloom can be in different places.”

Demers was asked if they are providing more monitoring and more warnings about toxic algae than ever before, and he said yes, that is happening.

“And more understanding of the actual issue, because I don't think there was a real understanding of how invasive this algae was,” said Demers.

Demers took us into his Twin Otter plane that will make more algae detection flights this summer.

He says a special sensor called a Hyperspectral Imager will be mounted on the floor of the aircraft to use sunlight to provide in-depth views of the algae that will grow.

The sensors are not cheap; new one costs $50,000 to build.
 
As the pilots fly over Lake Erie, an external lens on the sensor collects the images. They go inside the sensor, and those images are dispersed into hundreds of color, like a rainbow. Those colors can later be analyzed to determine if there is blue green algae, the type that contains those harmful toxins.


PROTECTING OUR WATER


Researchers will use that data to learn if the algae is harmful or not. And that critical information would then go to Ohio’s Harmful Algae Bloom Coordinator and then to leaders from lakeshore communities like Toledo, whose drinking water is most at risk from algae.

“And that lets them, I think helps them, to make decisions in terms of how they want to treat the water. And also be prepared for how the situation might change,” said Lekki.

NASA plans at least 20 flights to monitor Lake Erie this summer, likely starting in early July.

“I think we're going to go up there and hope, hope that there's nothing!” said Demers. “To be honest with you, I think that's the perfect thing - the algae has gone away. But maybe this year won't be as bad as last.”

The whole project is proof that NASA isn't only about what's going on in space, but also what's happening on Earth, to protect our water and health.

As NASA’s lead researchers, Lekki says it’s too early to predict the severity of this year's algal bloom. But he said the mild winter could allow it to start growing earlier than normal.

Follow WTOL:  

Download our app here

Copyright 2016 WTOL. All rights reserved

Powered by Frankly