Environmental forensics professor Dr. Massimiliano Lega of Parthenope University in Naples, Italy recently visited the US to join forces with specialists in remote sensing, modeling, and chemistry and crack down on toxic algal blooms. The story is reported in this National Geographic blog:

Environmental Forensics: Drones and Advanced Technologies to Track Eco-criminals

Below is some of what Prof Lega reported:

The idea for this visit originated in the spring of 2016 while SUNY ESF Prof. Ted Endreny served as a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Environmental Sciences at University of Napoli, Parthenope. During this portion of the trip a collaborative manuscript on remotely sensed pollution detection was finalized, two seminars were delivered, field sites were visited, and new professional contacts and proposal ideas were established.

Nutrient management is critical to the water resources of this area, which serve as a drinking water supply as well as many other social, economic, and environmental functions. Two examples of problems include Sodus Bay, New York and Toledo, Ohio.

On Sodus Bay in Lake Ontario for two weeks in August 2010 a bloom of toxic cyanobacteria formed and wreaked havoc on residents and tourists; and on Lake Erie in August 2014 an enormous but short-duration harmful algae bloom shut down the water supply for entire city of Toledo.

Prof. Endreny and I are working with partners from the i-Tree tools consortium, including the ESF professors and students, the USDA Forest Service, and the Davey Institute, to address the nutrient management trigger for these blooms. The i-Tree Hydro and related tools are free to the public, and help communities identify areas generating excess nutrients, their runoff pathway as non-point source pollutants into the receiving waters, and recommend locations for strategic plantings of trees and other green infrastructure to filter the nutrients, using them for useful ecosystem services.

To improve the data input for these models, I met with SUNY ESF Prof. G. Mountrakis(Department of Environmental Resources Engineering) to identify shared research goals and challenges with the use of UAV platforms and sensors in environmental remote sensing of terrestrial and aquatic systems.

My practical experience with flight logistics and converting data into forensic evidence complements and supplements information obtained by Prof. Mountrakis using digital image analysis of satellite imagery. Remote sensing still cannot distinguish between the harmful and non-harmful algal blooms, but research is actively developing rapid and accurate methods for in-situ detection. To this end, Dr. Teta met with SUNY ESF Prof. G. Boyer (Department of Chemistry), Director of the Great Lakes Research Consortium, to discuss collaborative methods to improve harmful algal bloom monitoring and management. Dr. Boyer is the lead in several harmful algal bloom projects, including the Sodus Bay site.

Before leaving SUNY ESF, Dr. Teta and I each delivered a seminar on September 6, 2016 as part of a dinner event entitled, “Environmental Forensics with Remote Sensing Methods”, at Attilio’s Italian Restaurant, in Syracuse, NY. The seminars were sponsored by the Council on Hydrologic System Science ( ) and the SUNY ESF Outreach Office community professional development hour (PDH) lecture series. The audience consisted of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Syracuse University, as well as practicing scientists and engineers from many firms and agencies the community interested in more effective water quality monitoring programs.