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Lithuania’s membership in the European Space Agency is significant for researchers of Klaipėda Universitety

0n 18 March 2021, the Council of the European Space Agency signed an Association Agreement with Lithuania, to be finally ratified in the autumn of this year. Currently, 22 countries are members of the European Space Agency, and Lithuania has been ESA European Cooperating State since October 2014. After the ratification of the Agreement, Lithuania will become a full Associate Member of the European Space Agency. This will foster innovation in science and the development of advanced technologies and innovative industries as well as increase the international competitiveness of space-based business and science.

Researchers of the Marine Research Institute of Klaipėda University have experience in cooperation with the European Space Agency. This year, they completed the project Development of the Lithuanian Surface Water Environmental Assessment and Monitoring System Based on Space Science Mission Data, funded by the European Space Agency’s Plan for European Cooperating States (PECS), which was recognized by the European Space Agency as one of the most successful projects. The main goal of this project is to develop methods that can be used to map various parameters of water bodies, such as chlorophyll-a concentration, water transparency, vegetation, and water temperature using Sentinel satellite data. These data are of great practical value, as the ecological status and water quality, pollution and the extent of water “bloom” can be monitored simultaneously in the whole water body.

You see maps of chlorophyll-a concentration and water surface temperature in the Curonian Lagoon, made using 17 March 2021 Sentinel-3A satellite data by dr.  Diana Vaičiūtė and dr. Toma Dabulevičienė from the Marine Research Institute of Klaipėda University. Although the environment does not yet feature the true colors of spring, despite the low water temperature, spring has been gaining momentum in the Curonian Lagoon. Here, the concentration of chlorophyll-a, which indicates the productivity of the water body, varies from very low values at the Nemunas Delta to high values, i.e. over 50 mg m-3, in the south-eastern part of the Curonian Lagoon belonging to Kaliningrad Region. It should be noted that concentrations of chlorophyll-a in excess of 50 mg g-3 correspond to average water quality (usually assessed using concentrations measured in summer).

Therefore, Lithuania’s accession to the European Space Agency as its Associate Member is an important step for researchers of the Marine Research Institute of Klaipėda University, leaders in the field of space oceanography and aquatic research in Lithuania, who have already been closely cooperating with experts from various countries, such as Italy, Estonia, Finland, and the Netherlands.