News

NASA Satellite Detects Red Glow to Map Global Ocean Plant Health: Briefing Materials
05.28.09
 
A Media Briefing on New Findings from the MODIS Instrument on the Aqua Satellite

WASHINGTON -- Researchers have conducted the first global analysis of the health and productivity of ocean plants, as revealed by a unique signal detected by a NASA satellite. Ocean scientists can now remotely measure the amount of fluorescent red light emitted by phytoplankton and assess how efficiently these microscopic plants are turning sunlight and nutrients into food through photosynthesis. Researchers can also study how changes in the global environment alter these processes at the center of the ocean food web.

NASA held a media briefing on Thursday, May 28, 2009, at 1 p.m. ET, to present the findings. Briefing visuals are listed below. For the complete story, click here.



Background Information on Teleconference Speakers


› Michael Behrenfeld, ecosystem scientist, Oregon State University
› Scott Doney, marine chemist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
› Ru Morrison, oceanographer, University of New Hampshire



Images and Multimedia in Support of the News Conference



Download high-quality versions of the videos below from the Goddard Space Flight Center's Scientific Visualization Studio.

map showing fluorescence yield around the globe in 2004 HIGHLIGHT VIDEO: This video shows highlights of the briefing imagery.
› View Video (wmv)
chart showing oceanic fluorescence yield Figure 1: The MODIS instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite compiled this global view of the amount of fluorescent light emitted by phytoplankton in the ocean. The amount of fluorescent light is not constant; it changes with the health of the plant life. Credit: Mike Behrenfeld, Oregon State University
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chart showing oceanic iron dust concentrations Figure 2: Based on real-world observations, this model estimates the concentrations of iron dust in the ocean. Iron is a critical but limited nutrient required for marine plant growth. Credit: Mike Behrenfeld, Oregon State University
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chart showing oceanic fluorescence yield Figure 3: Observations from the MODIS instrument on the Aqua satellite show the amount of fluorescent light emitted by plankton in Indian Ocean, where seasonal monsoons can limit the amount of iron nutrients in the water and stress the plankton to emit more light. Credit: Mike Behrenfeld, Oregon State University
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image of a fluorescent phytoplankton colony Figure 4: Phytoplankton -- such as this colony of chaetoceros socialis -- naturally give off fluorescent light as they dissipate excess solar energy that they cannot consume through photosynthesis. Credit: Maria Vernet, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
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map showing phytoplankton fluorescence around the globe in 2004 Video 1: This data-based map shows phytoplankton fluorescence around the globe during the year 2004, as detected by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite. Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
› View video (mp4)
map showing fluorescence yield around the globe in 2004 Video 2: This data-based map shows the "fluorescence yield" of phytoplankton in the oceans during 2004. "Fluorescence yield" is the fraction of absorbed sunlight that is given off by the plants as fluorescence and it changes with the health or stress of the phytoplankton. More fluorescence is emitted when waters are low in key nutrients such as iron. Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
› View video (mp4)
map showing iron dust deposition on the oceans in spring 2004 Figure 5: This data-based map shows iron dust deposition on the oceans in spring 2004. Areas with low dust deposition have high fluorescence yields. Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
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Related Links


› From the journal Biogeosciences: Satellite-detected fluorescence reveals global physiology of ocean phytoplankton (Behrenfeld, et al.)
› Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
› Ocean Color Web
› Fluorescence -- That Healthy Glow
› Ocean Productivity Page at OSU
› What are Phytoplankton?
› Supplemental imagery on phytoplankton as viewed from space
› Fertilizing the Ocean with Iron
› Fun with Phytoplankton