Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University


Harmful algal blooms are dense aggregates of algae that negatively impact local economies, marine or freshwater ecosystems, and/or public health. Some HABs produce toxins that cause various illnesses that harm both humans and marine wildlife such as Diarrheic Shellfish Poisoning, Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning and Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning. While it is known that HABs persist when nutrients and water temperature combine to create the optimal environmental conditions for their propagation, there are many questions surrounding exactly what these conditions are and how they are reached. Therefore, the focus of this project as part of the NASA Student Airborne Research Program was to look at the effects of chlorophyll and water temperature on 6 different HAB species along the California Coast from San Diego to Monterey Bay. In this study, it is shown using time series and cluster analysis indicate both positive and negative correlations of water temperature with respect to HAB species, but only positive correlations between chlorophyll and HAB species. Correlations of chlorophyll indicate satellite imagery can be used to map HABs initially but not predict them. Results are consistent with previous attempts to model distribution of HAB species (e.g. Pseudo-Nitzschia) in California Coastal waters, as they indicate that a strong regional component is involved in doing so. This demonstrates the need for a more integrative approach to HAB forecasting along the California Coast that takes into account not just temperature and chlorophyll measurements, but also differences in water chemistry and other environmental conditions between sampling stations that result from differences in coastal topography, river discharge, coastal bathymetry, and meteorological parameters.

This work has been supported by the NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) and the National Suborbital Education and Research Center of University of North Dakota



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