Marine Optics and Remote Sensing Laboratory

Ocean color remote sensing is an invaluable tool for understanding ocean biology, biogeochemistry and ecology. With daily views of Earth, ocean color data have been used to research many different aspects of marine ecosystems, from phytoplankton at the base of the marine food web, to modeling and forecasting distributions of higher trophic level species such as the North Atlantic Right Whale.

My primary research goals are to:

  1. Create remote sensing methods to measure ocean biology and biogeochemistry,
  2. Apply remote sensing methods to study changes in marine ecosystems.

Ongoing Projects

Particulate Inorganic Carbon Remote Sensing

Particulate Inorganic Carbon (PIC) is also known as calcium carbonate or chalk. Some phytoplankton have PIC-rich outer layers and play a significant role in the global carbon cycle. Because of their PIC-rich outer layers, when they grow and bloom in the oceans, the water turns a milky, turquoise blue that is visible from space. I’ve developed a method to detect how much PIC is in the ocean based on this color change. Currently, I am part of NASA’s VIIRS Ocean Science Team and am working on improving methods to measure PIC from satellite observations through laboratory measurements and modelling efforts.

Remote Sensing of Carbon in the Gulf of Maine

The oceans play a key role in the global carbon cycle, so to be able to understand and monitor how this is changing across the whole ocean on daily timescales would be valuable. Using an extensive dataset in the Gulf of Maine, I’m developing methods to detect different parts of the carbon cycle from satellite observations. In particular, I’m focusing on the part of the carbon cycle that could help with monitoring the process of ocean acidification - a process which could impact the fisheries and aquaculture industries within the Gulf of Maine.

Volcanic Blooms

In some regions of the ocean, phytoplankton growth is limited by lack of availability of some nutrients they need to grow. Evidence has shown that ash from volcanic eruptions can provide those nutrients, and allow phytoplankton to grow and bloom. I’m working on a project to investigate this effect. Specifically, I’m looking at how we can use satellite observations to help study this phenomenon.

Copepod Remote Sensing

The majority of ocean color remote sensing has focused on phytoplankton and phytoplankton sized materials. I’m working with an international team to develop methods to use satellite ocean color observations to detect swarms of the copepod Calanus Finmarchicus in the Gulf of Maine and the North West Atlantic.

Using Drones to Monitor Intertidal Seaweeds

I’ve been working with a team from Nearview LLC, Maine Maritime Academy and Schoodic Institute to develop methods to classify and estimate the biomass of different intertidal seaweeds in Maine, namely Rockweed and Bladderwrack, using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS aka drones). The methods developed in this project will result in a reproducible approach for monitoring seaweeds at spatial scales relevant for local and state-wide resource management.

Gulf of Maine North Atlantic Time Series (GNATS)

GNATS has been running since 1998 measuring optical, biological, biogeochemical and physical properties across the Gulf of Maine. We have used ships of opportunity to collect data on clear sky days for validation of NASA ocean color satellites and to understand the Gulf of Maine marine ecosystem.