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Tasmania Images Back!

You may have noticed that for the past few months Floating Forests has only been serving up California images. The Tasmania images that we were analyzing last year have been offline due to some image quality issues. However, thanks to a lot of hard work by the Zooniverse team and power user/image processing magician Briana Harder we are happy to announce that the Tasmania images are back! Not only are the image quality issues fixed, Briana has helped us implement an algorithm to filter out cloudy images and images that don’t contain any coastline (see upcoming post for more details). As a result, hopefully you will be spending less time skipping bad images and more time outlining those beautiful kelp forests!

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 9.34.24 PM

Less of this…


and more of this!

and more of this!

We have also improved the way in which we obtain images from USGS/NASA. This will make it easier for us to introduce data from other regions, so expect to see some images from Baja California, Chile, South Africa, and other temperate coastlines soon.

In the meantime, have fun with these Tasmania images. We’ve already started to document some major declines in kelp abundance in Tasmania over the past few decades thanks to your classifications. We are eager to obtain a better picture of these changes, but we need your help!


NASA Article on Floating Forests

Check out this NASA feature article on Floating Forests!

Floating Forests at Western Society of Naturalists 2014!

octopus_shirt_back_small.241163727_stdHi All,

Kyle, Alison, and I are just back from the annual meeting of the Western Society of Naturalists where we presented our progress with Floating Forests. The meeting took place in downtown Tacoma, Washington with over 500 marine ecologists, naturalists, and students in attendance.


We had some exciting discussions about the project at the poster session and the prospects of global coverage of kelp forest canopy dynamics has the potential to aid in the research of many scientists. Please click on the link below to download a high resolution copy of the poster.

Click Here for a Hi-Res Floating Forests Poster!

Great job everyone!

Where are we getting these images?

All of the images we are currently using in Floating Forests come from the Landsat satellite program. The Landsat program is an incredible series of satellites managed jointly by NASA and USGS that has been collecting imagery of the earth almost continuously since the early 1970s! This first Landsat satellite was launched in 1972 and the most recent, Landsat 8, was launched in February 2013. For Floating Forests we are using data from Landsat 4, 5, 7 and 8. We aren’t using data from earlier Landsat missions because the coarser resolution of these earlier satellites makes identifying kelp even more difficult than it already is. We also are not using data from Landsat 6 because this sensor crashed into the Indian Ocean soon after it was launched.


Timeline of the Landsat program

My favorite Landsat sensor has to be Landsat 5.  This satellite was launched in 1984 and had an expected life span of 3 years. But it kept chugging along for an incredible 29 years and was only recently decommissioned in June 2013, giving it the Guinness World Record for the “longest operating earth observation satellite”. The long-term nature of the Landsat program is what makes it special. This data allows us to peek back in time to see how the earth has responded to climate change, human land-use change, disturbances like forest fires, mudslides, earthquakes, volcanic activity, and many other processes. Landsat has been used to monitor crop and forest harvests, map geologic features, monitor coral reef health, explore for oil and gas, measure changes in glacial coverage, track oil spills, aid regional planning, and for many, many other applications including, of course, tracking changes in giant kelp forests!


Landsat false-color infrared image of Long Island, Bahamas. Image from NASA.


These images from July 22 and October 2, 1988 document the dramatic forest fires that occurred in and adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. Image from NASA

Best of all, since 2008 Landsat imagery has been available to the public at no cost. This has dramatically increased the ability of scientists to conduct the kind of long-term study that we are doing here at Floating Forests. It also has unleashed a flood of data: millions of scenes have already been collected and hundreds of new scenes are acquired each day by the Landsat satellites currently in orbit (Landsat 7 & 8). The challenge now is in developing ways to make sense of all of this data. Citizen science projects like Floating Forests are one exciting approach for tackling this problem, new automated processing algorithms are another.


Are you interested in performing your own analysis on Landsat imagery? Or would you like to make some art from these beautiful images? If so, it’s easy to download the data. Simply go to GLOVIS or EarthExplorer to get started. You can also watch a live feed of Landsat acquisition here.


Looking for a quicker way to move through the non-kelp images? You can now type ‘n’ on your keyboard instead of clicking the “NEXT IMAGE” button. You can also use ‘c’ to toggle the cloud button. Happy hunting!