Water Quality Research on Inland Waters

Dr. Joseph D. Ortiz
Kent State University, Department of Geology

Nutrients provides the raw materials needed to fuel algal blooms, the rapid growth of single-celled algae in lakes or the ocean. Increasing nutrients and water temperature can also alter the ecology of aquatic systems, creating conditions that favor Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) by algae capable of producing toxins. Lake Erie and other bodies of water in Ohio and around the world are experiencing increasing numbers of HAB-related problems. Blooms of these nuisance species can result in a number of environmental problems such as illness, foul odors and bad taste. When the algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose. The result is a drop in oxygen in bottom waters called hypoxia or if no oxygen remains, anoxia. That can release trace metals into the water or make the water more corrosive. I use remote sensing to study the distribution and compositon of algae to monitor and predict HABs.

Apply online to the Graduate Program in Geology at Kent State University.

More information about the Kent State University Geology Graduate program.

Work in my lab focuses on using visible and near infrared energy to discover how algal blooms affect water color. Using multivariate statistics, we can identify different types of algae based on how they alter water color. This work can be done using remote sensing data, in the field with handheld sensors, or in the lab using filtered water samples.

I work with Dr. George Bullerjahn (Biological Sciences, BGSU),
Dr. Jen Mou (Department of Biological Sciences, Kent State University), and Dr. Adem Ali (Department of Geology and Environmental Science, College of Charleston). Our work has been funded by the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the Ohio Sea Grant Program. I collaborate with NASA Glenn, the USGS Lake Erie Biological Station, and other researchers in the OhioView consortium.

article about my work was recently featured in the Environmental Monitor, the online trade journal for Fondriest Environmental, which sells and services scientific instrumentation for environmental monitoring. My work has also been showcased in the Twineline, the Ohio Sea Grant's journal, and as part of a panel discussion on water quality technologies in Ohio on NPR's "The Sound of Ideas".

WKYC TV aired a piece regarding my role in the NASA monitoring program that responded to the 2014 Lake Erie HAB that shut down the water supply in Toledo, leaving almost 500,000 Ohioans without water for a full weekend. Articles from Kent State sources regarding my research have appeared on the Division of Research and Sponsored Programs website ("Lake Erie's Algae Monitored from Space") and in the Kent State Magazine ("Toxic Threat").

Here are some papers you can read to learn about our work:

Ali, K.A., and J.D. Ortiz, Multivariate approach for chlorophyll-a and suspended matter retrievals in Case II waters using hyperspectral data, Hydrological Sciences Journal, 2014. DOI:10.1080/02626667.2014.964242.

Ortiz, J.D., Witter, D.L., Ali, K.A., Fela, N., Duff, M., and Mills, L., Evaluating multiple color producing agents in Case II waters from Lake Erie, International Journal of Remote Sensing, 34 (24), 8854-8880, 2013.

Mou, X, Jacob, J., Lu, X., Robbins, S., Sun S., J.D. Ortiz. Diversity and distribution of free-living and particle associated bacterioplankton in Sandusky Bay and adjacent waters of Lake Erie Western Basin, Journal of Great Lakes Research 2013.

Ali, K.A., Witter, D.L., and J.D. Ortiz, 2012, Multivariate approach to estimate color producing agents in Case 2 waters using first-derivative
spectrophotometer data, Geocarto International, Early online release: 10/30/2012 DOI:10.1080/10106049.2012.743601.
Ali, K.A., Witter, D.L., and J.D. Ortiz, Application of empirical and semi-analytical algorithms to MERIS data for estimating chlorophyll a in
Case waters of Lake Erie, Environmental Earth Sciences; DOI 10.1007/s12665-013-2814-0, published Oct 1, 2013.

Witter, D., Ortiz, J.D, Palm, S. Heath, R., Budd, J., Assessing the Application of SeaWiFS Ocean Color Algorithms to Lake Erie, Journal of Great Lakes Research, 35, 361-370, 20.