International cooperation in the context of Sentinel-3 Ocean and Land Colour Imager (OLCI) validation studies over lake ecosystems (INCIS-3IVE)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Biological and Environmental Sciences


Water is vital for the existence of life on Earth. Lake and reservoirs contain something like 85% of all freshwater on Earth and as such any deterioration in the health of these systems can have profound effects on human society as well as the wider environment. Lakes are very dynamic environments and their health depends on many complex interactions between physical, chemical and biological processes. Lakes are also very sensitive systems and they respond rapidly to changes in our climate and also to the way we manage our lands. It's really important that we are able to measure the condition of lakes around the world and understand how they are changing as a result of human activities. However, this is no easy task. There are over 300 million lakes on Earth and they are scattered across the landscape and often in very remote and inaccessible locations. We simply do not have the financial or human resources to be able to monitor the health of all these lakes. In fact, we currently only monitor something like less than 0.00003% of all lakes and reservoirs on Earth.

This a real challenge for lake scientists at the moment. One way of potentially meeting this challenge is to use satellites orbiting the Earth to make measurements of lake water quality. Satellites allow us to observe large areas on the Earth at any one time and they can provide these observations on a very frequent basis. This makes them ideal for assessing changes in lakes. However, the use of satellite observations for lake monitoring is technically challenging and we have only recently started to develop these techniques in a serious manner. In the next few years, the European Space Agency will be launching a series of new satellites called the Copernicus Sentinels. These satellites are being specifically designed for monitoring our environment, including the health of lakes and other inland waters. To get the very best of these new satellite sensors, there is an urgent need to bring together worldwide experts to work on the development of tools for extracting information on the status of lakes from the raw satellite observations.

The purpose of this project is to bring together Europe's leading scientific teams with interests in the use of satellite sensors for lake monitoring and to get them working together on common challenges. In particular, the teams will be tasked with working out how better to relate satellite observations to measurements made on the ground. These are very technical considerations but are vitally important if we are to use satellite observations in the correct way. This project will exploit a rare opportunity to make use of some world-class research facilities and instruments in other countries. This will greatly benefit scientists in the UK and ensure they remain in a position to lead future developments in the field and contribute to the social and economic well-being of our wider society. Ultimately, we anticipate that in the very near future satellite technology will allow scientists to answer fundamental questions about how lakes are responding to changes in our climate and understand the implications of these changes for the wider environment and human society.

Planned Impact

The principal academic beneficiaries of the INCIS-3IVE (International cooperation in the context of Sentinel-3 Ocean and Land Colour Imager (OLCI) validation studies over lake ecosystems) project include the inland water and marine ocean colour remote sensing community. Details of these benefits and the mechanisms through which they will be realised are detailed further in the 'Academic Beneficiaries' section.

In addition, the project will have substantive impacts on non-academic organisations including public sector bodies and private-sector industries. Many of these benefits will ultimately be realised through the added value that this project brings to the larger GloboLakes project. The project will have benefits for the UK environmental regulators, namely the Environment Agency (EA), the Scottish Protection Agency (SEPA), and Natural Resources Wales (NRW), who have statutory responsibilities to monitor and protect the quality of surface waters in the UK, and for the various UK water utility companies. The purpose of INCIS-3IVE, and the wider GloboLakes project, is to develop the science underpinning the application satellite remote sensing to the monitoring and assessment of water quality in lakes and reservoirs. The operationalization of this technology will lead to significant economic benefits for these organisations as it would provide more frequent and much greater geographic coverage of monitoring at a lower cost. The lead-PI on INCIS-3IVE has close collaborative links with the EA and SEPA, having recently completed the EA-funded Algal Blooms Pilot Project, They are both also represented on the Management Committee for GloboLakes.

More indirectly, the project is of benefit to other organisations and individuals who manage public access to surface waters as the realisation of operational near-real time satellite monitoring would lead to more rapid dissemination of water quality information and more accurate warnings of potentially harmful algal blooms and associated health risks to the public and livestock. This includes relevant National Park authorities (Lake District, Loch Lomond & Trossachs, the Broads Authority) and public health authorities. Beneficiaries include companies that provide commercial products and services derived from Earth observation data. In the case of INCIS-3IVE, this includes organisations such as Brockmann Consult (Germany), Brockmann Geomatics (Sweden), Water Insight (The Netherlands) and EoMAP (Germany), as examples of private sector companies providing satellite-based water quality services for lakes. All these companies are currently developing new services for Sentinel-3 and have collaborative links with the lead-PI through the GloboLakes, FP7 INFORM and INCIS-3IVE projects. It is also expected that through the links between NERC Earth Observation Data Centre, PML and CEMS (Climate and Environmental Monitoring from Space) via the Satellite Applications Catapult ( the results of the research could be exploited by the UK private sector.

Publicity and wider dissemination of the project outcomes will be achieved through the existing GloboLakes project including the dedicated website ( which provides both non-technical information aimed at the general public as well as information for a scientific audience. More targeted dissemination will be supported by the Communications and Media Department at University of Stirling, working alongside those of the international partners. We anticipate regular publications in popular press and (this already includes articles for BBC News and the Freshwater Matters magazine published by the UK Freshwater Biological Association) high impact peer-reviewed scientific journals throughout the lifetime of the project. We will continue to produce regular project newsletters sent to key users with responsibilities or interests in monitoring the state of the environment (e.g. DEFRA, UK conservation agencies).


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Description We have developed the Calimnos processing chain which now enables us to observe the water quality (optically active in water constituents) across the River (including lakes and reservois)-Sea continuum. this was previously not possible due to the optical complexity of the environments.
Exploitation Route Yes results feeding into further funding, especially through H2020 SPACE (R&I) calls.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Transport,Other

Description we are working with SEPA, Environment Agency, Scottish Water and Anglian water to adopt the EO capability for more proactive monitoring of Lakes, Reservoirs and Coastal Waters. This is being done through the NERC KE Fellow Claire Neil: NE/S016856/1
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

Description (Water-ForCE) - Water scenarios For Copernicus Exploitation
Amount € 2,999,575 (EUR)
Funding ID 101004186 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2021 
End 12/2023
Description Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne 
Organisation University of Aberdeen
Department Development Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Joint sampling campaigns, training in bio-optical measurements and intercomparison work
Collaborator Contribution Access to data (for LIMNADES), boat and sampling equipment
Impact none yet
Start Year 2014
Description Global Lakes Sentinel Services 
Organisation Water Insight B.V.
Country Netherlands 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Attendance at advisory meetings. New funding supporting the collaboration and intercomparison excercises. Working together on a H2020 proposal.
Collaborator Contribution The Global Lakes Sentinel Services project will set up a system that is able to handle large quantities of Sentinel 2 and 3 data. The focus will be on the ingestion, archiving, pre-processing and distribution of data and results in a harmonized and user friendly way. The GLaSS system will have innovative functionalities for integrated use of Sentinel 2 and 3 data, time series generation, data mining and further analysis. The quality of the GLaSS system and its products will be ensured by testing it against simulated datasets, and by validating the products through a number of field studies. In order to promote the take-up of Sentinel 2 and 3 products by a wide community of scientific and applied researchers, the GLaSS project will concentrate on the study of Global Lakes because lakes provide very relevant case studies, due to their high importance to society as supply of drinking and irrigation water, but also due to the fact that large lakes are often part of several countries with different socio-economic interest. Thus, our case studies will provide material for- and insights in the interdependence of technology and societal issues involved in Lake Management. Based on selected global case studies, the GLaSS project will produce sets of training material and courseware to make sure that interested researchers quickly can start using Sentinel and GLaSS products and services. The Advisory board is composed of eminent researchers in the field of optical remote sensing of water quality in three other continents. They will help to facilitate and participate in case studies of lakes in their areas of interest, thus ensuring the global dimension of GLaSS.
Impact Partners on NERC INCIS-3IVE proposal - intercomparison excercise for Sentinel 3 validation. Currently working on a H2020 proposal. No publications yet.
Start Year 2013
Description Tartu Observatory - INCIS-3IVE partner 
Organisation University of Tartu
Country Estonia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Coordination of intercomparison exercises to characterise in-situ sensor response for ESA Sentinel 3 validation.
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to data for GloboLakes (and LIMNADES data base) and partners in the project
Impact None yet
Start Year 2014
Description UNEP WWQA 
Organisation United Nations (UN)
Department United Nations Environment Programme
Country Kenya 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution United Nations Environment Programme World Water Quality Alliance
Collaborator Contribution New partnership to exploit EO capability in delivering water quality information in data poor regions of the world. MOU being develoloped
Impact In progress
Start Year 2021