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Satnews Daily
January 13th, 2020

Dutch Researchers are Spot On Tracking Sargassum Seaweed with Globalstar Satellite 

Huge quantities of Sargassum seaweed are being tracked from across the native environments in the North Atlantic to such diverse areas as the Caribbean and the southeast USA, and although it is relatively harmless, in such massive quantities it is killing coral, impacting fishing and forcing the closure of beaches.

To investigate and track these happenings Globalstar Europe Satellite Services Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Globalstar Inc. (NYSE MKT: GSAT), which specializes in satellite messaging and emergency notification technologies, announced that researchers from the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea ResearchThe University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Utrecht University are using drifter buoys fitted with SPOT Trace satellite trackers to understand the dramatic increase of Sargassum seaweed across the North Atlantic. The research team built 20 buoys equipped with SPOT Trace trackers and placed them across the North Equatorial Recirculation Region (NERR) in the summer of 2019. 

By analyzing the GPS data transmitted from SPOT Trace trackers, the biologists aim to understand where the free-floating, kelp-like algae originates and how its environment is changing, so that action can be taken. 

Most surface ocean research projects use bulky 10-meter-deep drifters but when the Dutch research team heard about how Nico Wienders at the Florida State University used tiny SPOT Trace satellite trackers for oceanographic and oil spill research, they realized this was a more realistic option to mimic the drift of Sargassum on the surface of the sea.

SPOT Trace’s affordability and size were key factors in the researchers’ decision. The buoys are made out of a 15cm PVC pipe which floats about 1cm above the sea. Each buoy is fitted with a tiny (7 x 5cm) SPOT Trace device which features an integrated GPS receiver, simplex transponder and motion sensor. Thanks to Globalstar’s many Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites and SPOT Trace’s long battery life, research teams benefit from high frequency sampling and precise, granular tracking.  

Dr Erik Zettler, guest researcher at the Department of Marine Microbiology and Biogeochemistry, NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, commented,  that with an international team of collaborators led by Chief Scientist Linda Amaral-Zettler at NIOZ/UvA, they headed for the North Equatorial Recirculation Region (NERR), where the stranding Sargassum is thought to originate. To track the movement of the Sargassum, they deployed the buoys out across hundreds of miles of the NERR. As their colleague Erik van Sebille at Utrecht University analyzes the preliminary tracking data from the SPOT Trace devices, they are gaining important information about how the Sargassum moves in this region. 

Gary King, SPOT Regional Sales Manager EMEA at Globalstar said that today’s climate emergency demands that they gain deeper understanding about how the oceans are changing. Many hundreds of SPOT Trace GPS trackers are now involved in oceanography studies around the globe, helping drive informed decision-making on plastic pollution, oil spills and more, and they believe this scientific use of their reliable satellite technology will only grow further.

SPOT Trace’s oceanography customers include the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science for oceanographic and oil spill research, NATO’s Science and Technology Organization (STO) Center for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE), the University of Oldenburg’s work monitoring plastic debris in the North Sea and Spain’s coastal authority, Salvamento Maritimo, using SPOT Trace to devise oil spill disaster recovery procedures. Also, The National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics and the Istituto di Scienze Marine of the Italian National Research Council use SPOT Trace to study surface currents in the Mediterranean.