NASA scientist seeks pilots to help monitor toxic algal blooms

Jun 28, 2017, 7:14 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — A NASA scientist is leading an all-volunteer effort in his free time, hoping to recruit general aviation pilots and turn them into an early warning system for toxic algal blooms.

The effort has caught the attention of the Utah Division of Water Quality, which last year struggled with the effects of a large bloom of blue-green algae on Utah Lake.

“There’s a lot of potential to use their flight times or even just their interest for flying as a way to gather data,” DWQ environmental scientist Ben Holcomb said.

Pilots who are interested in taking part must fund the flights and equipment themselves. That includes mounting commercially-available cameras to their aircraft, then flying over waterways. Imagery gathered is geo-tagged.

“You can overlay them really easily on any existing map and know exactly where those images were taken,” Holcomb said.

Scientists also have software that’s capable of estimating concentrations of toxins in the water, based on the imagery. High levels of blue-green algae can prove hazardous to humans and animals. In the case of Utah Lake’s bloom in 2016, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and Utah County Health Department were forced to close the lake to boaters as a precaution.

Holcomb believes the effort, which is not formally endorsed by NASA, could help prevent such situations in the future.

“Great opportunity for us because we get high-quality data that we can use and that really comes at very little cost,” Holcomb said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

FILE - A doctor loads a dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at ...
Aimee Cobabe

Bill banning vaccine passports heading to Utah Senate

A bill to ban vaccine passports is heading out of the Utah House and into the Utah Senate. The bill is similar to a failed bill from 2022.
20 hours ago
A two-vehicle crash Monday morning on U.S. Highway 40 claimed the life of a 19-year-old man. Photo ...
Mark Jones

Crash in Uintah County claims the life of a 19-year-old man

UINTAH COUNTY, Utah — A 19-year-old man died Monday morning in a two-vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 40 in Uintah County. The Utah Highway Patrol says the crash occurred near milepost 137 at 7:11 a.m. The UHP says a 2017 Nissan Rouge was heading westbound. The 19-year-old victim was the driver of the Nissan Rouge. […]
20 hours ago
It's so cold today (Jan. 30) that plumbers are expecting calls anytime from customers needing servi...
Curt Gresseth

When it’s this cold, keep your pipes from freezing. Here’s how.

It's so cold outside today that a plumber has joined the show to share tips on keeping your pipes inside and outside your home from freezing.
20 hours ago
road home...
Allie Litzinger

The road home is in need of donations and volunteers this winter

SALT LAKE CITY — Cooler temperatures leave the homeless and unhoused service providers vulnerable. Road Home community coordination director Karissa Guthrie says they are in need of cold weather clothing and hand warmers most. These providers are always in need of donations no matter the season, however freezing temperatures only worsen the situation. “Lets say […]
20 hours ago
(Utah Highway Patrol)...
Elizabeth Weiler

Head on collision reported, State Route 73 closure

SALT LAKE CITY — Police are reporting a head-on collision resulting in life flight assistance.  Spencer Cannon with Utah County Sheriff’s office said the collision occurred at SR 73 just east of Eagle Mountain Boulevard.  Cannon said the highway will likely be shut down for at least half an hour.  This is an ongoing story […]
20 hours ago
Hundreds gather in support of transgender youth in a rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023...
Lindsay Aerts

LGBTQ advocacy groups to file lawsuit over Utah’s transgender-related surgery law

SALT LAKE CITY — The National Center for Lesbian Rights and the ACLU of Utah will file a lawsuit against the new Utah law banning transgender minors from getting surgeries and limiting hormone treatments. “We’re putting together a challenge as quickly as we can,” said Shannon Minter, the NCLR’s legal director, to KSL NewsRadio’s Lindsay […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
NASA scientist seeks pilots to help monitor toxic algal blooms