Columbus thought he'd sailed the ocean blue but according to satellite imagery from NASA and the FlowCam® particle imaging and analysis system, it's closer to 50 shades of green.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Ocean Ecology Laboratory Field Group is mapping and monitoring the world's oceans using satellite-based ocean color imagery and several of its research scientists turned to the FlowCam from global aquatics instrumentation manufacturer Fluid Imaging Technologies, Scarborough, Maine (to ground-truth satellite data and identify phytoplankton communities. The ship-based FlowCam model automatically and continuously detects individual, waterborne microorganisms, takes a high resolution, full-color image of each one and provides more than 40 different measurements, often identifying the species in an instant. Ideal for detecting and tracking harmful algae blooms and studying the potential impact of climate change on marine life, the FlowCam provides NASA with real-time field data documenting actual oceanographic conditions that may be quickly matched to satellite imagery for validation or to existing data sets to yield a more complete picture of the ocean and its changing colors.

“For the first time, we were able to see how the kind of phytoplankton influenced the optical properties of the seawater and could immediately examine whether an unusual community was related to the seawater or to the satellite images, thanks to the FlowCam,” says Prof. Joaquim Goes, a biological oceanographer from Columbia University Earth Observatory. “The FlowCam technology allows us to achieve high-resolution maps of phytoplankton that can be related to satellite data in more meaningful ways than possible before. I think the role of the FlowCam will expand significantly.”

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