Networking Friday with Konstantinos Topouzelis (UAegean)

On March 19th, 2021, 1-2 PM UTC, Konstantinos Topouzelis, University of the Aegean, marvelled us with his presentation “Fighting the ocean plastic pollution with the use of satellite images and drone data: Plastic Litter Project (PLP), history and future steps”. The moderator was Leah Mupas Segui, who just started a new position with the Pew Charitable Trusts as part of their Preventing Ocean Plastics research team.

Marine Litter is a global problem affecting the world’s oceans. State of the art techniques are needed for the detection and quantification of floating marine plastics and remote sensing can be particularly useful for monitoring large areas. As the scientific community works towards the specification of sensors for the monitoring of marine litter, there is a direct need for marine debris indicators for the detection, classification, quantification and tracking of marine litter.

Remote sensing is one of the tools necessary for the detection of floating marine plastics because of the extensive area coverage and frequent observation. While floating plastics are reported in high concentrations in many places around the globe, no referencing dataset exists either for understanding the spectral behavior of plastics in the real environment, or for calibrating remote sensing algorithms and validating their results. To tackle this problem, we initiated the Plastic Litter Projects (PLPs), with the objective to construct large artificial targets and to deploy them on the sea surface.

The PLP’s scope is to explore the feasibility of detecting plastics in the aquatic environment using UAV and the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite mission, to extract meaningful spectral measurements in near-real scenarios, and to simulate the coarse satellite pixels using the fine UAS resolution. The first PLP was conducted in 2018 (PLP2018), as an innovative exploratory experiment, with three large artificial 10×10 m plastic targets. During the second PLP (PLP2019), 10 smaller targets were created in order to be closer to reality and to examine the limitations of the detection with Sentinel-2 images. In PLP2020 we worked towards creating a reference target for the scientific community.

Last but not least, with the use of drone images and Artificial Intelligence, the PLP team was able to map the beach littering, and they launched the Coastal Marine Litter Observatory (CMLO), a solution for automatization of litter density mapping in the coastal area.


Kostas Topouzelis

Konstantinos Topouzelis

Fighting the ocean plastic pollution with the use of satellite images and drone data: Plastic Litter Project (PLP), history and future steps

Konstantinos Topouzelis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Marine Sciences, University of the Aegean and he is leading the Marine Remote Sensing Group. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies, a Master’s degree in Remote Sensing and a Ph.D. in sea pollution monitoring from space. His main research interest is on the analysis of remote sensing datasets, including satellite and aerial images, for marine and coastal applications. His expertise includes automatic detection of oceanographic phenomena, Object Based Image Analysis, image processing algorithms and coastal mapping. The last years has focus his research on the marine litter detection and runs the Plastic Litter Projects (PLP); an innovative exploratory application of open-access satellite imagery and drone data for the remote detection of artificial floating marine plastic targets.

Published papers:

  • Topouzelis, K.; Papageorgiou, D.; Karagaitanakis, A.; Papakonstantinou, A.; Arias Ballesteros, M. (2020) Remote Sensing of Sea Surface Artificial Floating Plastic Targets with Sentinel-2 and Unmanned Aerial Systems (Plastic Litter Project (2019). Remote Sens. 2020, 12, 2013. DOI: 10.3390/rs12122013
  • Biermann, L., Clewley, D., Martinez-Vicente, V., Topouzelis, K. (2020). Finding Plastic Patches in Coastal Waters using Optical Satellite Data. Scientific Reports. 10, 5364. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-62298-z
  • Topouzelis, K., Papakonstantinou, A., Garaba, S.P. (2019). Detection of floating plastics from satellite and unmanned aerial systems ( Plastic Litter Project 2018 ). Int J Appl Earth Obs Geoinf. 79, 175–183. DOI: 10.1016/j.jag.2019.03.011


Leah Mupas Segui

Leah Mupas Segui

Leah Mupas Segui is a Senior Associate with the Pew Charitable Trusts. As part of Pew’s Preventing Ocean Plastics Program, Leah supports the program’s research in identifying strategies to reduce ocean pollution. She was a 2020 Knauss Marine Policy Fellow for the GEO Blue Planet Initiative hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Satellite Oceanography and Climatology Division. At GEO Blue Planet, Leah managed international partnerships that support global ocean and coastal policy frameworks and their use of Earth observations data in the global monitoring, mitigation, and management of marine pollution, disaster risk, and fisheries. Leah received her Ph.D. in Zoology from Oregon State University and her B.S. in Biology from San Diego State University.

We will continue with the Networking Fridays during the next months. More information about future sessions as well as presentations and videos from previous sessions can be found here. Twitter Hashtag: #netfridays. Expect some very exciting afternoons, or mornings or evenings, depending on where you are…

If you need any additional information please send an email to Jose Luiz Moutinho.

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