Global dashboard that exposes environmental changes during pandemic

Global dashboard that exposes environmental changes during pandemic

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA is collaborating with other space agencies to study and collect data on environmental changes and human impacts during the corona virus pandemic.

The information ranges from water quality such as Brevard’s Indian River Lagoon to economics around the world.

Jake Zehnder is conservation manager for the Brevard Zoo “Restore Our Shores” project. The team has just finished building its largest living coastline yet along Brevard County’s struggling Indian River Lagoon.

All told, it is nearly 1,000 feet tall, contains 17,000 water-filtering oysters, and 3,700 plants of 15 species such as seagrass.

“(We) only use plants and natural features to stabilize the coastlines from erosion to sediment loss,” Zehnder told Spectrum News.

Water quality is the major problem for this waterway. Decades of pollution have taken their toll with oxygen-depleting nutrients that form superalgae blooms and suffocate life from the lagoon.

But during the pandemic, the waters were much clearer, indicating that human-caused pollution is likely to be lower.

“Blue water, where light comes down, is what you want,” Zehnder said.

NASA is making a global contribution to studying changes in water quality during the pandemic, in collaboration with the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency at a COVID-19 Earth observation dashboard.

Satellite data and analysis of air and water quality, climate change, economic activity and agriculture will be available to the public and the government.

The aim is to discover the short-term and long-term effects of the global pandemic as the economy slowly reopens.

Satellite data can monitor ports, normally overcrowded cities, and even measure the impact of agriculture around the world.

As a scientist himself, Zehnder welcomes the effort.

“We need to know where we have been, where we are now, so that we can go in the right direction,” he said.

The NASA-affected dashboard will grow with new observations in the coming months as the global economy begins to open up again.