When Bay is Acting Salty: Monitoring Water Quality in the Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound

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Project Team: Coastal Alabama Oceans

Team Location:Mobile County Health Department ‰ÛÒ Mobile, Alabama

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center at NSSTC ‰ÛÒ Huntsville, Alabama

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Mercedes Bartkovich

Xin Hong

Leah Parker

Amy Schwarber


Dr. Jeffrey Luvall (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center)

Dr. Robert Griffin (University of Alabama in Huntsville)

Dr. Maury Estes (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, University Space Research Association)

Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA Langley Research Center)

Joseph Spruce (Science Systems and Applications, Inc)

Leigh Sinclair (University of Alabama in Huntsville, Information Technology and Systems Center)

Turbidity in Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound on Jan 31, 2015, processed from Landsat 8 OLI sensor. Image Credit: Coastal Alabama Oceans Team


The Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound are the main coastal estuaries along the Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coast. They serve as the primary drainage outlets for the Mobile Bay and Pascagoula River watersheds and provide a gradient of coastal water salinity conditions needed for a diversity of wildlife species and coastal habitat types. Coastal water health conditions have a direct impact on the native biota that are sensitive to water quality, including the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica), a keystone species, and the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), a vulnerable species. This project addressed the dynamic coastal ecosystem by creating time series analyses to monitor salinity, temperature, and turbidity changes for the Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound from June 2007 to May 2017. The Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) was used to detect salinity and sea surface temperature, while Landsat 5, Landsat 8, and Sentinel-2 Multispectral Instrument (MSI) were employed to detect turbidity levels and validate sea surface temperature. Such data products were used to compute habitat suitability maps for oysters and manatees in the Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound to assess the optimal areas and conditions for habitat restoration initiatives. Project partners will use product results to better understand manatee movements and habitat suitability for oysters.

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