Scientists Are Dyeing California’s Ocean Pink To Track Pollution
What happens to all the trash and chemicals washed into the ocean after heavy rains? A team of U.S. and Mexican scientists are trying to find out by dyeing the ocean bright pink.
From Sept. 22 to Oct. 17, researchers with the University of California, San Diego’s, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Jacobs School of Engineering, along with several Mexican institutions, will release non-toxic pink fluorescent dye into beach waters in Southern California and Tijuana, Mexico.
During the experiment, known as the Cross Surfzone/Inner-shelf Dye Exchange project, or CSIDE, researchers track the dye’s movement and dilution as it mimics the movements of pollutants that may affect human health and coastal ecosystems.
Researchers use a fluorometer, a device that measures dye fluorescence, to track the pink dye from the beach, boats and a Jet Ski. They also monitor the dye from an airplane, using a hyperspectral sensor that takes detailed measurements of the ocean’s color.
During the first phase of the experiment on Sept. 23, researchers released 30 gallons of dye in the 8.5-mile stretch of water between Imperial Beach and Coronado in Southern California. Falk Fedderson, the project lead, said he was surprised with the results.
“We thought it would rocket in a plume up the surf zone, up the coast,” Fedderson told the San Diego Reader. “It did that for a while, but then the dye just went offshore, and then it decided it wanted to go to Mexico. It basically did a U-turn.”
CSIDE’s results will be a model that can be applied to beaches around the world. Policy makers and coastal managers will be able to use CSIDE’s research to make informed decisions when closing beaches due to heavy runoff from rain or sewage spills.