SEES 2022: Water Quality and Satellite Imagery

Guest blog: Ishaan Verma

The last 4 weeks of field trips and mosquito mapping have made me curious about the effect of water quality on the habitation of mosquito larvae in water bodies. So far, I have gone to a canal, creeks, ponds, and backyards. All these places vary in their water quality and mosquito larvae content.

<--- The creek I visited had mostly clear water

<--- Canal with poor water quality and lots of algae

Looking beyond AOI for vector-borne disease data

While my field research is limited to the area of interest (AOI), I researched New Jersey vector-borne surveillance reports to gain a broader perspective.  2021 was the second most active West Nile Virus (WNV) season in New Jersey. Almost ~1000 pools tested positive for the WNV. I am curious as to whether the water quality of an area could affect the concentration of WNV cases. It is very common for urban areas to have ponds filled with algae while those closer to natural rivers and streams often have much "cleaner" water. 

Remote Sensing and Water Quality Monitoring

Other than my observations in the field and experiments with mosquito traps, our team is focusing on understanding the relationship between water quality and vector-borne diseases, specifically between eutrophication and vector-borne diseases. 

One of the important aspects of monitoring water quality is to have the right data for vector-borne surveillance. Predicting the likelihood of mosquito-borne diseases in the aftermath of a flood is also a challenge. Natural disasters like floods and rainstorms cause more standing water and moisture content that might take months to clear out. 

We aim to understand the relationship between water quality and vector-borne diseases by establishing a relationship through remote sensing. We will create a predictive machine learning model to predict cases of WNV using local water body algae coverage. I will continue to share subsequent details about the project in future blogs.  

The output of our initial model to identify water coverage from a Landsat satellite image (above)

Satellite imaging seems to be reliable in distinguishing water coverage given that cloud and cloud shadows are masked out. In addition, certain satellites like the Sentinel 2 Satellite show promise in detecting specific water quality features like algae coverage. 




Looking for water beyond our planet

I just had to add this: the James Web Telescope just premiered its first images. These extremely detailed photos are "the deepest and sharpest infrared images of the distant universe to date," and mark an important step in our view of the cosmos. What exciting times we live in! 

"NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured the distinct signature of water, along with evidence for clouds and haze, in the atmosphere surrounding a hot, puffy gas giant planet orbiting a distant Sun-like star." (NASA press release)

Image courtesy - NASA James Web Telescope(above)

A big shout out to NASA scientists!!!

About the author: Ishaan is a high school student in New Jersey. Besides being a robotics enthusiast, he loves pl​​​​​​​aying tennis, following Formula 1 races, and painting. His virtual internship is part of a collaboration between the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and the NASA  Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) to extend the TSGC Summer Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) internship for US high school ( Ishaan shared his experience this summer in this blog post. 

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