Using Color Analysis for Fingerprinting Macatawa Sediment

Student Author(s)

Michael Atwell

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Graham Peaslee

Document Type


Event Date



Lake Macatawa is hypereutrophic, meaning that its environmental health is characterized by an abundance of nutrients within the surrounding watershed. Too many nutrients enter the lake from surrounding areas to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Suspended sediment samples were collected after significant rain events over the past year. These dried sediment samples were analyzed as a larger part of a sediment fingerprinting effort to pinpoint specific areas of nonpoint source pollution for potential remediation. Color analysis has shown promise in differentiating subtle differences between areas of the watershed. Varying characteristics of sediment contribute to each site’s unique sediment color fingerprint, allowing us to use red, green, and blue values from digital images of sediment to quantify color contrast. Using Principle Component Analysis, the statistical variations in sediment color can be shown to differentiate several sub-watersheds within the Macatawa watershed. When combined with other measurable sediment characteristics such as phosphate content and elemental analysis, this fingerprinting technique can be used to identify the geographical sources of sediment within the watershed.

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