Private GA Pilots
There are 600,000 private pilots in the U.S. and over 200,000 general aviation (GA) aircraft. A fraction of this untapped resource can be used to study water quality scientific issues in aquatic systems.
Scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists. This may include crowd-sourced science, community engaged science, or networked science.
A Global Problem
U.S. Great Lakes system as seen from space by SeaWiFS satellite. (Credit: SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE)
Algae blooms pose serious problems to human health, fish, and recreation industry.
The economic damage to commercial fishing is $100 million and rising due to climate change (NOAA).
How You Can Get Involved
- Obtain high resolution aerial images and videos
- Fly over potentially impacted waterways
- Study plume and sedimentation dynamics, harmful algal blooms (HABs) initiation and distribution, algal mat structures, and Langmuir circulation and identify “hot” areas of concern.
- Make data publicly available to students, teachers, researchers, water-quality managers, and policy makers.
- Help develop empirical scientific models leading to next steps in predicting a HAB event.
- Use the photos and results to educate in water quality issues and the dangers of harmful algal bloom outbreaks to human health
- Ask students to come up with innovative solutions for the future
- Use simple cell phone cameras in your area, if safely possible, to shoot and compare their photos with aerial data
Members of the Public
- Help generate awareness of your environment
Fluid, Plume and Sedimentation Dynamics
Black River Flowing into Lake Erie
Depositing silt and sediment containing nitrogen and phosphorous.
Huron River Sediment Plume
High nutrient loading/turbidity (phosphorus and nitrogen)
Precursor to algae formation and harmful algae blooms (Microcystis/Lyngbya). Opportunity for students and teachers to engage in new & interesting science studies.
Open Water Field Testing for Water Quality
Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) boat and researchers
Submersible rover (OpenROV) for on-site measurements of water conductivity, total dissolved solids, and temperature depth profile, underwater imaging, and transmission of red, green, blue light
Underwater Rover Images
Lorain lake floor
Lorain algal bloom mats
Kelly’s Island, invasive quagga and zebra mussels.
Examples of Geo-referencing
Google Satellite Map
Aerial Photo of Location on Satellite Map
March 2016 Flight Data
Flight Track from Cleveland to Toledo
Still Images Geo-tagging. Your area of interest just a mouse click away.
Terry Schubert, M.Ed
Citizen Scientist & Educator, Editor, Central States Association Newsletter, Cleveland, Ohio
- Liane Guild, Ph.D., NASA Ames Research Center
- Joe Ortiz, Ph.D., Kent State University
- Pete Clapham, Ph.D., Cleveland State University
- Heather Raymond, Ohio EPA
Lead Pilot Coordinator
- Terry Schubert, M.Ed, Lake Erie, Ohio
Partners & Collaborators
John W. Desmarais, Sr.
HQ CAP Director of Operations
U.S. Air Force Auxiliary
Lesley V. D’Anglada, Dr.P.H., M.E.H
Office of Science and Technology, Office of Water
CA Watersheds and Nonpoint Source-319 Coordinator
Rochelle Labiosa, Ph.D.
Office of Water and Watersheds
Senior Research Scientist
Manager of Environmental Science Laboratory
3600 Green Court, Suite 100
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
Office Phone: 734-913-6858
Steven J. Steinberg, Ph.D., GISP
Principal Scientist – Information Management and Analysis
Select New Articles
- Lake Erie turning green as toxic algae bloom expands (Michigan Live, July 26, 2019): incorporates citizen science photo taken by Dr. Rafat Ansari.
- Citizen Scientists Take Flight Against Algal Blooms (“Ideas” on WVIZ/PBS, August 24, 2017): Both Dr. Rafat Ansari and Terry Schubert interviewed for this segment.
- NASA’s eye in the sky monitors algae blooms on the Mississippi River (StarTribune, August 26, 2016): A pilot from Rochester is helping scientists track potentially toxic scum.
- Monitoring Algae Blooms in Lake Erie (Cleveland 19 News, August 22, 2016): Dr. Rafat Ansari and Terry Schubert speak about the algae blooms in Lake Erie and what they and a group of fellow pilots are doing to monitor them.
- Citizen Scientists Monitor Lake Erie Algal Blooms (NASA, July 15, 2016): Dr. Rafat Ansari has spearheaded a citizen science campaign along with pilot Terry Schubert to involve public volunteers to monitor water quality along Lake Erie’s coastline and interior waterways.
- A Chinese Beach City Welcomes Its Annual Algae Bloom (The Atlantic City Lab, July 8, 2015
- Toledo, Ohio Drinking Water Emergency (USA Today, August 3, 2014)
- Algae Bloom Is China’s Latest Olympic Nightmare (Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 2, 2008)
- General Aviation Citizen Science Study to Help Tackle Remote Sensing of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) (NASA)
Roles & Expectations of Citizen Science Pilots
- Citizen scientist pilots and airplane owners are volunteers — not guided, supported, or paid by NASA.
- Each pilot is fully responsible for the safe operation of their aircraft. Mounting system hardware for their imaging system by following air-frame manufacturing or FAA guidelines and regulations.
- Pilots are free to choose their own flight paths and flight plans.
- NASA or the project shall not pay for any pilot services, such as aircraft maintenance, hangar rent, or fuel.