Hunting sargassum with Mexican software

The Network of Supervision of Sargassum in Cancún is connected to several computer platforms, satellites and other networks around the world

Hunting sargassum with Mexican software
2019 has had the higher levels of sargassum ever seen – Photo: Alonso Cupul/EL UNIVERSAL
English 20/07/2019 15:13 Mexico City Actualizada 15:13
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Given the issue of the massive reach of sargassum in the Caribbean, a group of Mexican engineers and biologists developed a software that allows them to process the data they gather on field and satellite images of Mexican beaches.

Esteban Amaro, of 48 years of age, hydrobiologist from the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM) Iztapalapa (as everyone in the team), in Mexico City, heads the Network of Supervision of Sargassum in Cancún to inform about this phenomenon in the coast of Quintana Roo.

In interview with EL UNIVERSAL, he said that they started to work in the matter in 2015: “We are a team of 12 people, from Computer engineers, Electromechanic engineers, biologists, marine biologists, to geologists and one oceanologist. Each one work in his area, at the end we make a complete report with different perspectives.”

Usually, only the biologists go to the field, they take samples, use drones with cameras that have multi-parametric sensors of five bands and thermal cameras to capture images that verify the information via satellite.

Based on the images, they make an interpretation of the data, they append information to the sea currents and the tides, to make an analysis, which they process through a software – of which they could not give us more detail because it is in patent process-, with which, he asserts, they can have a precision of 95% and thus provide an approximate of the reach of the sargassum with up to 72 hours of anticipation.


Altruists. “We’re like an NGO, we perceive no salary, so we work according to the schedule of each one,” he says, and adds, “at the beginning, we were a closed network. We were testing; we started from scratch, we began to develop the methodology and technique to be able to perform our studies. At the beginning of this year, we started to do it openly. People also started to send us pictures of the places where they detected sargassum. We now have a very complete database,” tells the environmental advisor.

The Network is connected to several computer platforms (Meteored, Winfinder, GFS, OOL-USF, Lansat-8, CNA, HYCOM-NCODA, GOES-16, NASA, DATA SIO, NOAA, US Navy, NGA, Gebco, SMN (IGF-UNAM), Google Earth Pro) and all the constellation of Copernicus satellites (Copernicus ESA).

They are connected to other networks like the one of the University of South Florida and its oceanographic optics laboratory. They have access to sources of information with whom they make exchanges; since they are an NGO, they have contact with networks located in places like Barbados, Jamaica, and different points of the Caribbean.

Hand in hand with the System of Information and Marine-Coast Analysis (SIMAR), from which a wide group of statistical oceanic satellite products derives from their daily results, the Mexican engineers make “a report through a ‘traffic light’ map with the points of highest tourist interest and where the reach of sargassum in Quintana Roo will affect the most.

“We send alerts of where the sargassum will arrive so that authorities can schedule their cleaning crews.”

The Network of Supervision of Sargassum in Cancún, a collective of engineers ranging from 28 to 58 years old, developed a “sargassum boat” with Mexican technology and that already has the licenses by the Secretary of the Navy (SEMAR) to go on field. "Rufo", the name of the vessel, will be made available for the government to help in the battle against sargassum in Mexican beaches.



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