Video: Citizen scientists tracking algae blooms

Aug 24, 2017

As the algae bloom season continues, NASA has been experimenting with drones to photograph the spread of harmful algae.  In the meantime, private airplane pilots acting as citizen scientists are helping out.

Dr. Rafat Ansari is a NASA scientist and pilot.  3 years ago he founded a program to recruit volunteer pilots to fly over Lake Erie, taking thousands of pictures of the lake and passing them on to researchers.

Ansari says these citizen scientists are taking aerial photos around the country.

"We had about 600,000 pilots out there and 200,000 airplanes," said Ansari.  "If we can form a network of these, flying over not only Lake Erie but over affected waterways throughout the country, then we can have some very nice data to share with everybody else."

Researchers use the photos to monitor harmful algae blooms.

Dr. Ansari spoke on the WVIZ/PBS program “Ideas.”