The Narragansett Bay Estuary Program has been mapping macroalgae coverage in the bay for five years.
We leave from TF Green Airport and head south east to Barrington and travel north hugging the eastern shoreline until we reach the Slater Mill dam on the Blackstone River. We then make our way south to Point Judith, hugging the western shoreline. Each survey takes about two hours and we take 300 to 500 photos to be analyzed. The photographs are analyzed for percent cover of green, red and brown algae. Because it can often be difficult to tell the specific type of algae from the air, we will travel to various beaches to identify the species of algae we saw from the helicopter. This method of verifying is called ground truthing. While ground truthing we also take biomass measurements using half meter quadrants. We collect all of the algae found in each quadrant and weigh the greens, reds and browns individually. Biomass estimates will help us to determine what kinds and how much algae is covering our shorelines. It is our hypothesis that as the Bay becomes acclimated to the reduction of nutrients coming from the sewage treatment plants we will see less algae washing up on our shores because there will be less food (nitrogen and phosphorous) for them to grow.
Check back soon for updates on our research season and information on our analysis!