Tracking giant kelp from space

Written by: Lisa Stelzner

Primary Source: Daily Dose of Science Blog

A new citizen science project called Floating Forests was just started a few days ago to help scientists study the effects of climate change on kelp forests in the world’s oceans.  It turns out that computers are not effective at distinguishing giant kelp sitting below the ocean’s surface in satellite photos, but the human eye is pretty good at it. Scientists at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara would like citizen’s help to circle areas of kelp in thousands of satellite photos of the open ocean taken by Landsat satellites from 1983 to 2013.  The project will start by providing images from California and Tasmania.Kelp forests are unique ocean ecosystems that are host to a large variety of species, including many fish, crabs, sea urchins, and sea otters. Giant kelp grows very quickly – up to two feet per day – and stores carbon, so scientists would like to see how much of the globe’s carbon is stored in these aquatic plants.

You can check out the Floating Forests website at:

Here is a view of giant kelp off a cliff of Anacapa Island, located off the Southern California coast.  This was taken when I visited for a restoration project in 2005.
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Lisa Stelzner
I'm a plant biology PhD student studying monarch butterflies in Michigan, but I'm interested in lots of other types of science, too. I am interested in how breeding monarch butterflies choose their habitat based on floral species richness and abundance. Few studies have been conducted on optimal foraging theory when it involves an organism searching for two different kinds of resources, and butterflies are an ideal study system to investigate this, since many species are ovipositing specialists and only lay eggs on one species of hostplant, but are feeding generalists and nectar from a broad variety of flowering forbs.