CyanoMap is a decision support tool that provides systematic metrics on lake surface temperature, ice cover, and Harmful Algal Blooms. The BigData tool uses satellites, web mapping, mobile devices, crowd sourcing, and cloud technology to bring you the best possible information in near real time. CyanoMap metrics are largely derived from multiscale satellite remote sensing. The satellites fly over lakes, and we transform that data into useful information using computer algorithms and calibration from on lake measurements and buoys. We use super computers to process the imagery and handle the data as the amount of information grows exponentially. We integrate social media and harness community knowledge to promote awareness. There is a big team behind CyanoMap and we have many partners and collaborators from across the world to help calibrate the tool and customize products for different applications.
There are multiple satellites that fly in space that are operated by international space programs such as NASA. The satellites vary in their temporal overpass frequency, spatial resolution, radiometric sensitivity, and spectral coverage and collect spectral information over different wavelengths or colors of energy. We use empirical and analytical bio-optical algorithms to transform those measurements into meaningful information. No single sensor provides all the data for comprehensive monitoring, so we use many satellites, leveraging cloud and web technologies, and operate on a super computer. All the information gets combined in an advanced yet straight forward delivery platform accessible over the web or by mobile devices. It is an evolving system that grows every day.
Debate among professionals has existed for many years on how to define algal blooms and how to best characterize algae, cyanobacteria, and Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). Some define blooms as nuisance surface scums, cloudy waters caused by colonies, or by the potential to harm people or ecosystems. Broadly, cyanobacteria can be described as photosynthetic bacteria that have unique "blue-green" or "cyan" colored pigments. They have existed for billions of years and are ubiquitous in all ecosystems. A major concern now is how anthropogenic eutrophication is exacerbating blooms and the potential threat to people. Many inland waters are experiencing recurring or seasonal blooms, so we need tools to help address health risks.
There is no single guideline in the USA for toxicity at this time although some states have proactively developed advisory criteria. The World Health Organization's definition of HABs recommends thresholds for safe recreational waters based on measurements of cell counts, chlorophyll-a, and microcystins to indicate potential for short-term adverse effects including skin irritation and gastrointestinal illness. Cyanotoxins can be described as having negative health impacts and consist of groups of neurotoxins, hepatoxins, and dermatotoxins. These toxins include microcystins, nodularin, anatoxin, cylindrospermopsin, and saxitoxin among others. The name "Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Bloom" (CHAB) is typically used to help communicate these toxic conditions to officials and the public. Generally, we identify the main "culprits" common in a region or lake and keep a look out for these "offenders".
We are learning more everyday about the potential impacts on human health. Reports of animal illnesses or deaths have occurred at many lakes across the world. Human exposure to toxic cyanobacteria can result in side effects ranging from liver inflammation or hemorrhage, skin irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea to kidney damage, respiratory paralysis, neurological disorders and diseases or death. Not all people react the same, and exposure pathways are not fully understood due to the complexity of gene-environment interactions. Researchers have found that chronic or long-term exposure to elevated levels potentially increases the odds of developing neurological disorders, and more research is needed.
An overarching goal of CyanoMap is to provide the best available information for lakes and encourage discussion on lake water quality, management, public health, and decision making. If there is a CHAB, we want to provide that information to people who want a better understanding of conditions. Regardless of the exact reason a user comes to CyanoMap, we strive to help provide a service that meets those needs with our functionality and products. Several groups are now using CyanoMap as part of a more comprehensive decision support system and alerts tools.
Traditional sampling is time consuming, expensive, and not feasible over large areas or many lakes. CyanoMap is globally systematic and locally relevant. The tool is operational in near real time for monitoring and assessment while also allowing historical analyses. In addition, satellite images can observe the entire lake over time, providing more information than a few point samples. We apply rigorous, machine learning algorithms that are continuously updated and track uncertainty. We hope CyanoMap improves decision making and creates a new generation of citizen scientists that can harness the best technology.