Citizen Scientists identify kelp from satellite imagery

Photo by Claire Fackler, CINMS, NOAA.

NCEAS researchers are seeking citizen scientists to track giant kelp, without having to get all wet!
A NCEAS Working Group trying to answer the question, “Is climate change is having an impact on giant kelp forests and the marine ecosystems it supports?” painstakingly collected 30 years of NASA Landsat images of kelp canopies floating on the ocean’s surface. While these images could tell the scientists a lot about how kelp forests have fared through the last three decades, it turns out that computers are not able to reliably read the images to distinguish kelp from sea foam.
Undaunted, Jarrett Byrnes, University of Massachusetts and former NCEAS postdoctoral scholar, and his colleagues launched the Floating Forests Project on August 7, 2014. Created in collaboration with Zooniverse, the team plans to engage citizen scientist to help visually identify the bright green kelp beds along the California, Tasmania, Chilean, South African, and other coastlines around the world from satellite images dating back to 1984.
“Giant kelp is an incredible species,” Byrnes said. “It can grow up to a foot or two a day and forms these huge, beautiful redwood-like forests. If a forest is just recovering from a storm, swimming through it is like trekking through thick dense jungle.”
With the help of citizen scientists, Byrnes and his team will analyze giant kelp dynamics and canopy coverage, estimate total Carbon locked up in giant kelp overtime across the globe, measure potential shifts near equator-ward range boundaries, and changes in seasonality and distribution over a 30 year time scale. 
Additional media coverage>>
Noozhawk - Tracking Giant Kelp from Space: UCSB Alumni Calls on Citizen Scientists for Help
IndependentCounting Kelp: Citizen Scientists’ Help Sought in Climate Change Study
This Working Group was supported by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis which was funded by a grant from NSF (Grant #EF-0553768), the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the State of California.


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Posted on July 29, 2014