About Jennifer Olson
Jennifer Olson works at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and recently helped launch DISCOVER-AQ (Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality). DISCOVER-AQ is an airborne field campaign to study pollution where people live and breathe. Olson works with scientists from an array of U.S. and international universities and research centers, focusing on gases, particles called aerosols and solar radiation fields in the atmosphere.
When Olson was a child, two of her favorite things were the marching band at Santa Fe High School, in Santa Fe, Texas and watching the weather. Today, Olson doesn't get a chance to play the clarinet as often as she'd like. She is, however, still studying the sky and it is no longer from a homemade weather station in her backyard. Olson received her bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas and went on to get her master's from Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. She started working at NASA through a continuing education program, and went back to Georgia Tech to get her doctorate. While there, she did research with scientists at Princeton University, using their global chemical transport model to study ozone production due to tropical biomass burning in South America. She eventually started researching tropospheric ozone for NASA, which ties into her current work on data analysis and modeling for airborne field campaigns like DISCOVER-AQ.
During DISCOVER-AQ, scientists fly planes that have been outfitted with instruments that measure gases, aerosols and solar radiation in the atmosphere. That information is sent back to Langley, where Olson and her colleagues analyze and diagnose what chemical interactions are taking place in the atmosphere and how data from satellites can be used to understand pollution. The research team has flown over the Washington, D.C., area and the San Joaquin Valley in California to measure pollution. The Houston area is the next location on NASA's DISCOVER-AQ schedule for September 2013, so Olson's hometown friends shouldn't be surprised if they see low-flying planes in Santa Fe, too.
DISCOVER-AQ is a five-year field campaign to improve the use of satellites to monitor air quality for public health and environmental benefit. Near-surface pollution is one of the most challenging problems for Earth observations from space. Through targeted airborne and ground-based observations, DISCOVER-AQ will enable more effective use of current and future satellites to diagnose ground level conditions influencing air quality.
The UC-12 aircraft flies over the Chesapeake Bay at sunrise as part of the DISCOVER-AQ mission.
Funded by the NASA Earth Venture program, the DISCOVER-AQ mission employs two NASA aircraft to make a series of flights with scientific instruments aboard to measure gaseous and particulate pollution. The measurements are taken in concert with ground observations in order to shed light on how satellites could be used to make similar, consistent measurements over time, with the ultimate goal of putting better data in the hands of policy-makers and elected officials. DISCOVER-AQ flights took place over Baltimore-Washington, D.C. in 2011 and over the San Joaquin Valley in California in early 2013. The next mission destination is Houston in September 2013.
DISCOVER-AQ is a collaboration between scientists at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and multiple universities and localities.