Joseph Ortiz

Profession: Professor in the Department of Geology at Kent State University. Ph.D., Oceanography, Oregon State University.

Connection to the river: "I'm a member of a group called the Alliance for Water Equality, it's The Cleveland Water Alliance. What The Cleveland Water Alliance is doing is trying to find ways to innovate and improve water quality in the area. Many of the members work on the Crooked River, on the Cuyahoga."

Importance of the Cuyahoga River: "The Cuyahoga's a really interesting river for a number of reasons: it's a source of waterway traffic for Cleveland, it's a source of drinking water for the area, people use it for recreation and animals use it in their migrations. So it's really a part of the fabric of the city and of Northeast Ohio."

The river's significance to the planet: "In many ways, it's seen as the turning point in the environmental movement in the 1970s that led to the development of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, and the development of the EPA."

Greatest or most recent accomplishment: "In terms of water quality work, the work that I'm doing is making use of remote sensing as a means to monitor harmful algal blooms. Algae are single cell plants that grow in fresh water or marine environments, or in rivers, when they have a sufficient amount of nutrients and light, they can grow very rapidly and produce bloom conditions. Now blooms can cause problems by using up the oxygen when the organisms die, they're eaten or respired by bacteria, which is an issue that leads to the development of dead zones in Lake Erie."

"What I've been trying to do is develop methods in order to identify these algae from space so that we can look at the signature or pattern that they generate in the water and then use it as an early monitoring system to warn people when these events is happening." Time spent caring for or researching the river: "I've been here in Northeast Ohio since 2001."

"I can't say that I've always been interested in the Cuyahoga because I haven't always known about it. But I've always had an interest in environmental issues and trying to protect the environment."

First memory or impression of the river or Lake Erie: "I remember the first time that I saw the Great Lakes, it was an amazing experience, I'd never seen a body of inland water so large. It was kind of disorienting because when I see the ocean I'm kind of used to seeing these large, crashing waves and the smell of the sea, and here in Ohio we get many of those same things. The waves are not as big, but there're still seagulls, it's kind of funny."

Favorite place along the river: "I spent a lot of time working in the Lake Erie Islands, and I really enjoy the carbonate reef environments on the shelfs out there. So I'd say probably Gibraltar Island."