In the fall of 2012, red goo appeared in the harbor of Saint George Island in Alaska. Aaron Merculief, a local environmental manager, worried it was toxic. To find out, he turned to the LEO Network.

Brubaker: “The LEO Network is an online network of people that share observations about environmental change.”

Mike Brubaker of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium says users can upload their observations and connect with experts to get questions answered.

Merculief was paired with scientists who helped him determine that the red goo was an organism called a marine ciliate, not harmful algae.

Brubaker: “They were able to provide the feedback that this was not a toxin that would affect their food resources.”

Data uploaded to the LEO Network is also tracked by a group of wildlife, public health, and environmental professionals.

Brubaker: “We look at observations that are significant for human health, as far as things like emerging infectious diseases, and we look at other signals about things like air quality and water quality.”

By identifying emerging threats, the consortium can better protect Alaskans as the climate changes.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

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