17 January 2018
Plymouth Marine Laboratory can announce today that it will lead a £4.5 million project to carry out research aimed at improving knowledge of coastal and inland waters obtained from satellite observations. The work will contribute to improved observation of water quality issues which can have major implications for food resources, fresh water supply and health.
Earth Observation (EO) techniques are increasingly used to provide water quality information and address water management issues, especially in coastal and inland waters. Although there have been great advances in EO platform and sensor development (including operational potential via the Copernicus programme), there are still challenges in lowering the uncertainty of the EO products for coastal and inland water bodies. The requirement for accurate and reliable information is growing in the domains of public health, agriculture, aquaculture, energy and food safety, drinking water, conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity conservation, navigation and recreational use of water resources. Inland and coastal water bodies, however, represent a staggering range of optical and environmental diversity. Ground reference measurements are used to both confirm satellite borne readings and to develop improved satellite products, and are thus essential for daily decision making using satellite images.
It would only require about 10% of large, strategic water bodies to be equipped with sensors on the ground to support daily satellite observations. This is quite attainable and it is the aim behind the Multiscale Observation Networks for Optical monitoring of Coastal waters, Lakes and Estuaries (MONOCLE) project to provide a cost-efficient measurement framework for this. MONOCLE will use existing and newly developed innovative sensor technologies for low and high-end, fully autonomous and citizen-operated platforms, and provide the data infrastructure needed to maximise sustainable exploitation of the system. The system that is to be developed will be a versatile and sustainable in situ observation network. Ultimately it can be used for large rivers, lakes, reservoirs, estuaries, bays, and other coastal zones, growing into a self-supporting in situ service alongside EO water quality services. A key objective of MONOCLE will be to develop seven new optical sensors to be suitable for mounting on in situ platforms, such as buoys and ships but also citizen science platforms such as consumer drones, to provide greater and cost-efficient in situ coverage.
Dr Stefan Simis from Plymouth Marine Laboratory is leading the project consortium:
“Earth Observation using satellite mounted sensors has come of age allowing us to repeatedly scan large tracts of the Earth surface to gain unsurpassed volumes of optical observations, but where waters are optically complex, such as near coasts and inland, it can be challenging to interpret what we are seeing. It is these waters that are of most interest to society as they provide us with a wide range of goods and services such as food supply, drinking water, and waste remediation; they are the key to a healthy, sustainable future. The MONOCLE project targets observations at multiple spatial and temporal scales, from low cost volunteered observations to high-frequency fixed position platforms and piloted and autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles. This ‘local’ knowledge will be directly useful to inform of water quality but will also feed into developments to improve the accuracy of wider satellite observing systems. This low cost approach is especially relevant in data-poor regions, where MONOCLE will provide training and build local capacity to use and contribute to the global satellite observation capability.”