Field researchers like it when they can gather data by looking at satellite photos instead of schlupping around all over the place collecting samples. This can happen, however, only if they’ve first done a lot of schlupping to determine what’s on the ground and how it correlates with what they see from the satellite at the same time.
That’s the process being undertaken in New Hampshire by researchers trying to understand an apparent increase in the number of blooms of cyanobacteria (aka blue-green algae, although it’s not an algae) being reported in lakes and rivers. NHPR has a good story (read it or listen here)
“with so many lakes, you can’t have people out there all the time and measuring,” said Dave Lutz, research assistant professor at Dartmouth College. But, he said, satellites are often flying over, collecting images all the time. So if his team can determine a relationship between water quality and what the satellite sees, they’ll have a great database to better study changes in the lakes over time.