Data needs for hyperspectral detection of algal bloom diversity across the globeInternal

Activity Overview

Type: Foresight Workshop
Start Date: June 4, 2019
End Date: June 6, 2019
Host: VLIZ
Venue: Oostende, Belgium, Flanders Marine institute
Contact: Dr. Heidi Dierssen
E-mail: heidi.dierssen [at]
Funding Call: EuroMarine 2018 call for FWS and WG proposals
Total Budget: €7,500
Funds Granted: €7,500

Certain types of algae are known to form intense blooms at the sea surface, but their occurrence is sporadic and unpredictable. Episodic blooms not only contribute significantly to ocean biogeochemistry in terms of cycling of carbon and nitrogen, but some can also be considered harmful with production of toxins and disruption of food webs. Understanding the spatial extent and frequency of these blooms and linking their formation and duration to environmental forcing mechanisms will lead to a better understanding of the current and future changes in the world ocean. 

Though still in relatively early development, "hyperspectral" orbiting spectrometers that cover the full visible and near infrared spectrum have been recently used to assess plankton groups and map seafloor habitats. However, developing and validating hyperspectral measurements poses new challenges and the utility of hyperspectral imaging still needs to be demonstrated across diverse aquatic regimes. Several recent studies have documented gaps that need to be filled in order to assess algal diversity across the globe.

This workshop plans to discuss how to provide long-term datasets of sufficient spatial and temporal to develop hyperspectral algorithms that span the diversity of surface micro-, macro- and endosymbiotic algal blooms across the globe, as well as how can we best validate hyperspectral imagery and products derived from satellites.


In order to address the overall theme, the workshop will seek to answer three main questions:

  1. What surface blooms have the potential to be differentiated using hyperspectral imaging? (type, morphology, size range, biogeochemical or ecological function)
  2. What kinds of laboratory, field, airborne, and satellite data and are required to develop a comprehensive database to develop algal diversity bio-optical algorithms across the globe?
  3. How do we best utilise existing programs or recommend new programs to validate hyperspectral satellite approaches for detecting ephemeral blooms in the sea?


The outcomes of this workshop will be:

  1. A workshop report
  2. A Synthesis Publication (Frontiers in Marine Science or other review style journal) leading towards a consensus paper on the data needs and recommended infrastructure.
  3. To inform new programmatic opportunities from space and research agencies, and to identify what kinds of research programs should be developed to complement and maximise the utility of hyperspectral satellites for aquatic applications.


This workshop will work towards maximising the utility of hyperspectral imaging for aquatic applications and using novel technology to enable basic science in marine ecosystem biodiversity.  In addition, this workshop will works towards a better understanding of biodiversity of algae in the oceans and the response to changes in climate and environmental forces.

Group photo taken during the workshop. 05.06.2019


A group of 38 experts specialising in hyperspectral remote sensing methods for aquatic ecosystems attended the workshop at the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ). The international group of researchers from around the globe tackled how to develop global databases merging hyperspectral optics and phytoplankton group (PG) composition to support the next generation of hyperspectral satellites for assessing biodiversity in the ocean, food webs, and detecting water quality issues such as harmful algal blooms.

Through stimulating discussions in breakout groups, the team was able to formulate a host of diverse programmatic recommendations on how to better integrate optics in phytoplankton monitoring programmes, approaches to validate phytoplankton composition with satellite imagery, new database specifications matching optical data with phytoplankton composition data and requirements for new in-water technology that can be implemented on floats, moorings, drones and other platforms.


The organisers expect multiple peer-reviewed papers to be developed in the near future, as the workshop produced a range of programmatic recommendations on how to better integrate optics in monitoring programmes (among other discussions). 

The participants also plan to form a task force and working group open to global researchers interested in continuing to progress the discussion outputs of the workshop. 

Finally, the workshop identified future priorities and tasks for PG discrimination, covering:

  • Organisational developments
  • Data advances
  • White papers and/or peer-reviewed manuscripts
  • Technology needs
  • Hyperspectral demonstration projects

Update - March 2020

The workshop report was published as an article in the journal Oceanography. The article covers the data needs the workshop identified as crucial for the hyperspectral detection of algal diversity across the globe and the strategic measures and validation techniques that could be used to achieve these goals. The full article can be accessed below.