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Meet OLCI: the newest set of eyes in the sky for shellfish aquaculture monitoring

30 November 2017
Drs Hayley Evers-King and Andrey Kurekin, Earth Observation scientists at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, provide a summary of their work on analysing trends in harmful algal bloom (HAB) occurrences.

Nothing is quite as exciting as a rocket launch and last year scientists from the ShellEye project gathered to watch as a new satellite (Sentinel 3a) was launched in to orbit. Aboard was an instrument called the Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI). Scientists have waited impatiently during the very necessary commissioning phase of operations, and are now regularly receiving data from this instrument. But what makes this instrument so special?

For an ocean colour sensor OLCI has particularly good 'eyesight'! The sensor 'sees' the ocean at a wide range of specific colours, and at a higher resolution in space (300m) and time (nearly daily) than other sensors. This makes it very useful for trying to detect and understand the hazards in the oceans that may effect aquaculture, such as harmful algal blooms (HABs).

Early results already show improved coverage of the case study sites for the ShellEye project, and a reduced number of false alarms for detecting HABs. Coverage will improve further next year, when the sister of OLCI is launched aboard the Sentinel 3b satellite to take even more regular images of the oceans.

Sentinel 3 is part of the European Commission Copernicus programme, with the satellite and sensors developed and launched by the European Space Agency and operated by the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). The data from Sentinel 3 and all other satellites in the Copernicus programme, is open for anyone to use to develop products and services.