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Utilizing NASA Earth Observations and Community Science to Detect and Map the Displacement of Cladophora along the Milwaukee County Shoreline

Although Cladophora is naturally occurring and nontoxic, the accumulation and decay of this green macroalgae creates salient socioeconomic issues for communities situated along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. When Cladophora washes ashore and decays, it creates unaesthetic and unpleasant smelling beaches, potentially endangering public health and threatening the local tourism economy. Furthermore, decaying Cladophora promotes the growth of toxic bacteria, which can impact organisms that come into contact with it. In collaboration with Groundwork Milwaukee, the 2018 NASA DEVELOP Lake Michigan Water Resources team created Cladophora Habitat Suitability and Washup Predictive Maps to identify areas where the algae grows and predict where it will most likely come ashore. These maps were created using Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery of Lake Michigan near Milwaukee, WI, from June to September for the years 2016 and 2017. The results of this project will be validated during the fall 2018 DEVELOP term using in situ data of Cladophora sightings collected by Groundwork Milwaukee using an ArcGIS Collector App. To encourage community involvement, the team developed a project story map and provided Groundwork Milwaukee with content for their community science social media campaign that highlights the significance of this project while informing members of the general public about how they can contribute to cleanup efforts. These products will allow local organizations such as Groundwork Milwaukee to identify, monitor, and predict the movement of Cladophora and allocate cleanup resources more efficiently along the shores of Lake Michigan.