How green is the gulf?
Calculating the amount of chlorophyll in the Gulf of Maine is the focus of research by University of Maine doctoral candidate Michael Sauer.
Sauer, who is based at UMaine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole, Maine, has received a $30,000 NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship to create a more accurate calculation of the amount of chlorophyll in the water. He is using optical equipment, sensors and data from Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System (GoMOOS) buoys to compile information about temperature, salinity and light absorption in the water column.
Algorithms used for NASA satellite chlorophyll imagery are based on the open ocean, where phytoplankton is the primary ocean color source. However, the current method of measuring chlorophyll from satellite images can’t discern it from colored, dissolved organic matter (clear, yellowish-brown river water). Misinterpreting the color of the ocean results in misunderstanding the health of the ocean ecosystem.
Sauer was one of two UMaine graduate students to receive NASA fellowships last year. Oceanography doctoral candidate Margaret Estapa is studying the release of carbon from mud delivered from the Mississippi River to areas along the Gulf Coast.