Article by Julie Cohen, The Current (UCSB’s official news site) on the tracking giant kelp from space.
Citizen scientists worldwide are invited to take part in marine ecology research, and they won’t have to get their feet wet to do it. The Floating Forests project, an initiative spearheaded by scientists at UC Santa Barbara and UCLA, is calling on would-be researchers to examine 30 years of satellite photographs of coastal kelp-dominated areas around the globe to help identify their various sizes and locations.
In collaboration with colleagues at UCSB, Jarrett Byrnes, a former postdoctoral scholar at the campus’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), is trying to determine whether and how climate change is impacting giant kelp forests. To accomplish this, he needs to identify the green patches of kelp forest that appear in photos taken from space. Because of the sheer number of images — 100,000 in all —Byrnes and his team are soliciting assistance from the general public.
In the satellite photos, taken between 1983 and 2013, giant kelp forests appear as little green blobs in a big blue ocean. “What people are actually seeing is the kelp forest canopy floating on the surface of the water,” Byrnes said. “Computers have trouble distinguishing between sea foam and kelp forest, but to the human eye, it’s easy to see the difference.”
As a result, Byrnes and UCSB alumnus Kyle Cavanaugh, an assistant professor in UCLA’s Department of Geography, developed Floating Forests for exactly this purpose. The project will launch Aug. 7, with participants focusing on approximately 10,000 images from California and Tasmania. Once these images are classified, additional sets from other locations will be added.
Read the full article here.
Expert Insight Video: Listen to Dr. Carol Blanchette’s commentary about this project: