Xerra senior scientist Dr Moritz Lehmann has been accepted to the NASA PACE early adopter programme, along with scientists from across the globe in order to advance research of global ocean colour, biogeochemistry, and ecology.
Using data from the PACE mission, Dr Lehmann will be able to determine the extent and duration of harmful algal blooms in Aotearoa’s coastal waters and large lakes, in ways that have previously not been possible.
These blooms affect both commercial and recreational activities, in addition to harming ecological function and ecosystem health. Monitoring the patterns of harmful algal blooms requires an understanding of dispersion and growth dynamics and species distribution. The identification of potentially toxic versus non-toxic algae is possible with space-borne, high spectral resolution data, like that which will be collected by the PACE satellite sensor.
Working alongside the University of Waikato and Cawthron Institute, this collaboration aims to establish a research project to support routine monitoring of harmful algal blooms, as well as improve alert systems and inform the design of restoration activities.
Dr Lehman says he’s really excited to be involved in the early adopter programme. “It enables us as New Zealand scientists to communicate with NASA on how and why we are using their data. The programme also provides a forum for collaboration with the international scientific community to determine how PACE data can be used for improved monitoring and alert systems to protect the health and livelihoods of New Zealanders.”
PACE is NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem mission, currently in the design phase of mission development. It is scheduled to launch in 2022, extending and improving NASA’s over 20-year record of satellite observations of global ocean biology, aerosols (tiny particles suspended in the atmosphere), and clouds.
PACE will advance the assessment of ocean health by measuring the distribution of phytoplankton, tiny plants and algae that sustain the marine food web. It will also continue systematic records of key atmospheric variables associated with air quality and Earth’s climate.
PACE’s Ocean Colour Instrument will be the most advanced for observing ocean colour in NASA’s history. Observing chlorophyll from space has a long heritage – the first ocean colour satellite, NASA’s Coastal Zone Color Scanner (CZCS) was launched in 1978.
PACE represents a leap forward because it will view a very broad spectrum from 350 to 885 nanometer (nm) wavelengths at 5 nm intervals – making it hyperspectral. The range that PACE’s instruments will observe includes the UV (350-400 nm), visible (400-700 nm), and near-infrared (700-885 nm), as well as several shortwave infrared bands. Thus, the OCI will provide an unprecedented view of the ocean without the “blind spots” of previous sensors.
For more information on the PACE science mission, please visit the NASA PACE website, where the above text has been sourced from.