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I am a satellite oceanographer with a decade of experience developing state-of-the-art bio-optical algorithms for observing aquatic ecosystems. I currently serve as the PACE Project Science Discipline Lead for Bio-optics.


I work with local and international research institutes across Australia, the United States, and Japan.


I devise innovative spatial analysis tools that are readily applied to Earth observation satellite datasets for monitoring coastal water quality, cyanobacteria blooms, and marine biogeochemistry.

lachlan.mckinna -at-           +61.7.5415.1733       


PhD, James Cook University

BSc (Hons), James Cook University


Research Oceanographer, Go2Q Pty Ltd

Company Director, Go2Q Pty Ltd



Adjunct Research Fellow, James Cook University


  • Remote sensing (passive and active)

  • Inverse modeling

  • Hydrologic optics

  • Marine radiative transfer

  • Hydrologic optics

  • Measurement uncertainty analysis

  • Water quality in coral reefs

  • Trichodesmium blooms

  • Optically shallow waters

  • Marine water quality monitoring

  • Citizen science

  • Science communication/outreach

My Story

Originally from north Queensland, I grew up surrounded by tropical rainforest, beaches, and the Great Barrier Reef. During my youth I developed a curiosity for the natural world, particularly the ocean, and decided to pursue my interests further by studying physical sciences at James Cook University

Upon completing my undergraduate studies, I was awarded a coveted Australian Postgraduate Award and began my PhD studies with AIMS@JCU; a joint venture between James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. During my PhD program, I cut my teeth as an oceanographer by spending time aboard ocean-going research vessels in the Great Barrier Reef where I studied the optical properties of the pelagic cyanobacteria Trichodesmium.

After my PhD, my career has taken me around the World. I have worked at TropWATER, James Cook University; the Remote Sensing & Satellite Research Group, Curtin University; and the Ocean Ecology Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. During this time I have tackled a number of highly challenging scientific problems with esteemed colleagues. My research focuses primarily on observing marine optical properties and learning what they can tell us about oceanic processes and coastal water quality. I continue to support NASA ocean color bio-optical algorithm development for MODIS and VIIRS and serve as the PACE Project Science Discipline Lead for Bio-optics.


I have worked on a number of local and international projects and currently collaborate with researchers from Australia, North America, and Japan. I am also an Adjunct Research Fellow at James Cook University where I supervise post-graduate student work.


Google Scholar Metrics
Citations: 1084, h-index: 14

Magno-Canto, M.M., Fabricius, K., Logan, M., Lewis, S., McKinna, L., and B Robson. 2021, "A benthic light index of water quality in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia", Marine Pollution Bulletin, 169, 112539, doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2021.112539

McKinna, L.I.W., Cetinić, I. and P.J. Werdell. 2021," Development and validation of an empirical ocean color color algorithm with uncertainties: a case study with the particulate backscattering coefficient", Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 126(5) e2021JC01723, doi: 10.1029/2021JC017231


Lønborg, C., McKinna, L.I.W., Slivkoff, M.M., and C. Carreira. 2021, "Coloured dissolved organic matter dynamics in the Great Barrier Reef", Continental Shelf Research, 219, 104395, doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2021.104395

Praeger, C., Vucko, M., McKinna, L.I.W., de Nys, R. and A. Cole. 2020, "Estimating the biomass density of macroalgae in land-based cultivation systems using spectral reflectance imagery", Algal Research, 50,  [10.1016/j.algal.2020.102009]

Magno-Canto, M.M., McKinna, L.I.W., Robson, B.J. and K.E. Fabricius. 2019. "Model for deriving benthic irradiance in the Great Barrier Reef from MODIS satellite imagery", Optics Express, 7(20), A135-A1371, [10.1364/OE.27.0A1350]

McKinna, L.I.W., Cetinić  I., Chase, A.P. and P.J. Werdell. 2019. "Approach for propagating radiometric data uncertainties through NASA ocean color algorithms", Frontiers in Earth Science, 7:176, [10.3389/feart.2019.00176]

Werdell P.J. and L.I.W. McKinna. 2019. "Sensitivity of inherent optical properties from ocean reflectance inversion models to satellite instrument wavelength suites", Frontiers in Earth Science, 7:54,  [10.3389/feart.2019.00054].

McKinna, L.I.W. and P.J. Werdell. 2018. "Approach for identifying optically shallow pixels when processing ocean color imagery", Optics Express, 26(22), A915-A928, [10.1364/OE.26.00A915]

Werdell, P.J., McKinna, L.I.W., Boss, E., Ackleson, S.G., Craig, S.E., Gregg, W.W., Lee, Z., Maritorena, S., Roesler, C., Rousseaux, C.S.,  Stramski, D., Sullivan, J.M, Twardowski, M.S., Tzortziou, M. and X. Zhang.  2018. "An overview of approaches and challenges for retrieving marine inherent optical properties from ocean color remote sensing", Progress in Oceanography, 160, 186-212, [10.1016/j.pocean.2018.01.001]

Crooke, B., McKinna, L.I.W. and I. Cetinić. 2017. "From toes to top-of-atmosphere: Fowler's Sneaker Depth index of water clarity for the Chesapeake Bay." Optics Express, 25(8), A361-A374, [10.1364/OE.25.00A361]

McKinna, L.I.W., Werdell, P.J. and C.W. Proctor. 2016. "Implementation of an analytical Raman scattering correction for satellite ocean-color processing." Optics Express, 24(14), A1123-A1137, doi: 10.1364/OE.24.0A1123 

Reichstetter, M., Fearns, P.R.C.S., Weeks, S.J., McKinna, L.I.W, Roelfsema, C. and M.J. Furnas. 2015. "An assessment of bottom reflectance contamination in satellite remote sensing for coral reef environments." Remote Sensing, 7(12), 16756-16777, [10.3390/rs71215852]

McKinna, L.I.W., Fearns, P.R.C., Weeks, S.J., Werdell, P.J., Reichstetter, M., Franz, B.A., Shea D.M. and G.C. Feldman. 2015. "A semi-analytical ocean color inversion algorithm with explicit water-column depth and substrate reflectance parametrization." Journal of Geophysical Research - Oceans, 120(3), 1741-1770,  [10.1002/2014JC010224], [Supplementary material]

McKinna, L.I.W. 2015. "Three decades of ocean-color remote-sensing Trichodesmium spp. in the World's oceans: A review." Progress in Oceanography, 131, 177-199, [10.1016/j.pocean.2014.12.013]

Garcia, R., McKinna, L.I.W, Hedley, J.D. and P.R.C.S. Fearns. 2014. "Improving the optimization solution for a semi-analytical shallow water inversion model in the presence of spectrally correlated noise." Limnology and Oceanography Methods, 12, 651-669, [10.4319/lom.2014.12.651], [Web Appendix A], [Web Appendix B]

Garcia, R., Fearns, P. and L.I.W. McKinna. 2014. "Detecting trend and seasonal changes in bathymetry derived from HICO imagery: a case study of Shark Bay, Western Australia." Remote Sensing of Environment, 147, 186-205, [10.1016/j.rse.2014.03.010]

Evans, R.D., Murray, K., Field, S., Moore, J., Shedrawi, G., Fearns, P., Broomhall, M., McKinna, L.I.W., and D. Marrable. 2012. "Digitise this! A quick and easy remote sensing method to monitor the daily extent of dredge plumes." PloS One, 7(12), e51688, [10.1371/journal.pone.0051668]

Devlin, M.J., Harkness, P., McKinna, L.I.W., Abott, B. and J. Brodie. 2012. "Mapping the pollutants in surface riverine flood plume waters in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia." Marine Pollution Bulletin, 65(4-9), 210-22223, [10.1016/j.marpolbul.2012.03.001]

Schroeder, T., Devlin, M.J., Brando, V.E., Dekker, A.G., Brodie, J.E., Clementson, L.A. and L.I.W. McKinna. 2012. "Inter-annual variability of wet season freshwater plume extent into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon based on satellite ocean colour observations." Marine Pollution Bulletin, 65(4-9), 224-235, [10.1016/j.marpolbul.2012.02.022]

McKinna, L.I.W., Furnas, M.J. and P.V. Ridd. 2011. "A simple, binary classification algorithm for the detection of  Trichodesmium spp. within the Great Barrier Reef using MODIS imagery." Limnology and Oceanography Methods, 9, 50 – 56, [10.4319/lom.2010.9.50]

Choukroun, S., Ridd, P.V., Brinkman, R. and L.I.W. McKinna, 2010. "On the surface circulation in the Western Coral Sea and residence times in the Great Barrier Reef." Journal of Geophysical Research - Oceans, Vol. 115, C06013, [10.1029/2009JC005761]

Lambrechts, J., Humphrey, C., McKinna, L., Gourge, O., Fabricius, K.E., Mehta. A.J., Lewis, S. and E. Wolanski. 2010. "Importance of wave-induced bed liquefaction in the fine sediment budget of Cleveland Bay, Great Barrier Reef." Estuarine and Coastal Shelf Science, 89, 154—162, [10.1016/j.ecss.2010.06.009]

Book Chapters

Devlin, M., Schroeder, T., McKinna, L., Brodie, J., Brando, V., Dekker, A. 2012. "Monitoring and mapping of flood plumes in the Great Barrier Reef based on in-situ and remote sensing observations." Chapter 8 in: Environmental Remote Sensing and Systems Analysis, pp 147 - 191, Ed. Chang N.B., CRC Press, Boca Raton, [10.1201/b11702-10]

McKinna, L. and Y. Everingham. 2011. "Seasonal Climate Prediction for the Australian Sugar Industry using Data Mining Techniques." in: Knowledge-Oriented Application in Data Mining, InTech, Vienna, [10.5772/13904]

Donald, D., Everingham, Y., McKinna, L. and D. Coomans. 2009. "Feature Selection in the Wavelet Domain: Adaptive Wavelets." in: Comprehensive Chemometrics, Vol. 3, Eds. Brown, S., Tauler, R. and B. Waalczak, pp. 649– 667, Elsevier, Netherlands, [10.1016/B978-044452701-1.00033-8]

Theses and Dissertations

McKinna, L.I.W. 2010. PhD Thesis: "Optical Detection and Quantificiation of Trichodesmium spp. within the Great Barrier Reef." James Cook University, Australia.

McKinna, L.I.W. 2006. BSc Hons (Statistics) Thesis: "Investigating the Application of 2-D Discrete Wavelet Transform for Feature Extraction of Sea Surface Temperature Data used in a Seasonal Rainfall Prediction Model." James Cook University, Australia.

Published Datasets

McKinna, L.I.W. and P.J. Werdell. 2019. "Synthesised hyperspectral dataset for bio-optical algorithm development." PANGAEA, Dataset #899407, [10.1594/PANGAEA.899407]

Reichstetter, M., McKinna, L., Fearns P., Weeks, S., Roelfsema, C.M. and M,. Furnas. 2014. "Seafloor Brightness map of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, derived from biodiversity data." PANGEA, Dataset #835979, [10.1594/PANGAEA.835979]

Outreach and Education

2021:   Actually, it's Phytoplankton!: Planet Ocean, podcast series, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.

2020:   Actually, it's Phytoplankton!: Ocean Ecology and NASA's PACE Mission, podcast series, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.

2017:   NASA Outreach Interactive Display, Bernie Fowler’s Annual Patuxent River Wade-in Community

Event for Water Quality, Maryland, USA.

2017:   What Color is the Ocean?, NASA Earth Day Celebration, Union Station, Washington DC, USA.

2016:  NASA Ocean Color Hangouts (outreach booth), Ocean Optics XXIII Meeting, Victoria, BC.

2016:  Ocean Ecology Laboratory Desk, Annual Science Jamboree, NASA Goddard Space Flight

Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA.

2016:  What Color is the Ocean?, NASA Earth Day Celebration, Union Station, Washington DC, USA.

2016:  NASA SeaDAS Ocean-Color Software Help Desk, AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting, New Orleans


2015:  SeaDAS Ocean-Color Software Outreach, International Ocean Color Meeting, San Francisco,


2012-2013:  Remote Sensing Display, Curtin University Open Day, Perth WA, Australia.

2011:  Sea Level Rise Community Engagement Event, Airborne Mapping Campaign of Shark Bay,

Denham, WA, Australia

2006-2010:  Mathematics, Physics and IT Expo, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia

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