FlowCam - Flow Imaging Microscopy Blog

A Colorful View From Space: FlowCam, Phytoplankton and NASA

NASA satellite image - Bering

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Ocean Ecology Laboratory Field Group is mapping and monitoring the world’s oceans using satellite-based ocean color imagery.  Several of their scientists turned to the FlowCam to ground truth satellite data and identify the composition of the open ocean phytoplankton communities.

The FlowCam automatically and continuously detects individual waterborne organisms and takes a high resolution, full-color image of each one.  Additionally, it provides more than 30 different measurements and can often identify the species.  FlowCam is ideal for detecting and tracking harmful algae blooms and studying the potential impact of climate change on marine life.  NASA receives real-time field data documenting actual oceanographic conditions.  The data is quickly matched to satellite imagery for validation or supplements existing data sets providing an enhanced perspective to yield a more complete picture of the ocean and its changing colors.


"For the firsts time, we were able to see how the kind of phytoplankton influenced the optical properties of the seawater and could immediately examine whether an unusual community was related to the seawater or to the satellite images, thanks to the FlowCam,” says Prof. Joaquim Goes, a biological oceanographer from Columbia University Earth Observatory.  “The FlowCam technology allows us to achieve high-resolution maps of phytoplankton that can be related to satellite data in more meaningful ways than possible before. I think the role of the FlowCam will expand significantly.”

UPDATE: Read about this research on the NASA's website (published 11/17/2017) as well as at ECO Magazine 

Photo credit: NASA Ocean Biology Processing Group, Bering and Chukchi Seas captured by VIIRS (8/30/16)


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