Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

Policy Team Gets Drone to Document Water Quality

May 18, 2021
Last week, SCCF Research and Policy Associate Leah Reidenbach collected the first images of water quality conditions in San Carlos Bay from a drone recently purchased with grant funding provided by the Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership (CHNEP). 
It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. By documenting water quality and ecological conditions, SCCF scientists are now able to track water quality visually over time. Policy staff will be able to utilize these images to make a compelling argument for protection and restoration of our unique coastal ecosystems in Charlotte Harbor.
“Our new drone will provide high-resolution still and video images, which will be used by our scientists and policy staff to document water quality, inform the public about water conditions and support our advocacy efforts,” said Environmental Policy Director James Evans. 
Images collected with the drone will be incorporated into the Caloosahatchee & Estuary Conditions Report, a weekly report published in conjunction with J.N. “Ding” National Wildlife Refuge, the City of Sanibel, the City of Cape Coral, and Lee County. The report provides updates on water quality and ecological conditions within the Caloosahatchee estuary and coastal waters of Lee County.
Reports are provided to water managers at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District to inform their recommendations on water management issues related to Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee.
“While our data are scientifically valuable, the photos we take with our new drone will serve as a powerful visual aid that can have a stronger impact on the public and policymakers than water quality data alone,” said Reidenbach said.
Timing is everything!
This new tool will be especially important this year as Lake Okeechobee levels are currently more than 2.5 feet higher compared to the past two years, and blue-green algae blooms are already appearing in the lake and estuaries. Images collected using the drone will be posted to SCCF’s website—providing an ongoing record of conditions that advocates, scientists, resource managers, and policymakers can use in their efforts to protect and restore our coastal ecosystems.    
We thank our partners at the CHNEP for making this project possible.


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