Stennis Collaborates with Texas A&M, Naval Research Laboratory on First-of-its-Kind App

NASA Stennis Space Center, the Naval Research Laboratory at Stennis, and Texas A&M University at Galveston recently unveiled a first-of-its-kind web app to alert coastal residents of impending landings of bothersome Sargassum seaweed.
 
The first version of the Sargassum Early Advisory System (SEAS) web app detects Sargassum in the ocean using a satellite, forecasts its movement using an ocean model and virtual buoys, and alerts coastal residents of impending landings.
 
By tracking the approach of Sargassum, the new web app helps residents, businesses and local governments be better prepared to address seaweed issues. In 2014, the Gulf Coast was inundated with Sargassum, impacting everything from the fishing industry to tourism and local community life. So far in 2015, other regions are being hit hard, but there is a lot of Sargassum currently in the Gulf of Mexico.
 
“This project is a great example of NASA science and technology helping people in daily life,” said Duane Armstrong, chief of NASA’s Applied Science and Technology Projects at Stennis. “The techniques we developed are also going to help address other challenges, such as detecting ocean oil spills and monitoring oyster fisheries.”
 
The app grew out of a prior project in which Texas A&M University of Galveston scientists developed a manual system for predicting Sargassum landings. Armstrong suggested that the process could be adapted into an app to provide this information to the Gulf Coast and other regions.
 
The SEAS app was unveiled during the 2015 Gulf Coast Sargassum Symposium in Galveston, Texas, on April 2-3. The conference drew more than 100 participants from five countries, representing a broad cross-section of people from scientists to business owners to state and local government representatives.
 
“The SEAS web app and the symposium received overwhelmingly positive feedback,” Armstrong said. “It’s a great tool to put in the hands of businesses and community leaders. There’s been a lot of interest in it.”
 
The app drew front-page coverage in the Houston Chronicle and was picked up by more than 70 media outlets, including major outlets such as National Public Radio and Telemundo. “This is a unique project that addresses a real problem,” Armstrong explained. “Seaweed can inundate a coastline, piling several feet high and extending for miles. It can represent a real challenge for communities.”
 
A benefit of the SEAS app is its availability; anyone can access it online at: sargassum.tamug.edu. In addition, the app costs almost nothing to operate and can be easily updated and enhanced, a process already under way.
 
For information about Stennis Space Center, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis/
 

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