NASA Intern Anjanette Hawk
Anjanette Hawk holds a certificate

Anjanette Hawk holds the certificate she received when she was selected to be a NASA Student Ambassador. Image Credit: Anjanette Hawk

In which NASA student opportunity project did you participate, and how did you get involved in it?

I started my first internship at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., near Washington, D.C., in 2006. My advisor introduced me to the NASA internship and insisted I apply. I took a chance, which I did not know was going to change my future goals and expectations. The Goddard project I worked on observed land cover changes in Shiprock, N.M. When I started this project, I was lost and confused about how to find data that would look at land cover changes within this area. Once I started meeting with my mentor and other NASA scientists, I started understanding the language of Geospatial Information Systems, or GIS. From that point, I knew that I would pursue a career in GIS, and today I'm a GIS technician with the Navajo Department of Transportation. I like my career setting, and I wish to start more projects that involve GIS.

My next NASA internship was at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California in the summer of 2007. This internship dealt with the "Estimation of Leaf Area Index Through the Acquisition of Ground Truth Data in Yosemite National Park" study. Leaf area index, or LAI, is an important indicator of ecosystem health. Remote sensing offers the only feasible method of estimating leaf area index at global and regional scales. Land managers can efficiently monitor changes in vegetation by using NASA data products such as the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) leaf area index 1-km product. To increase confidence in use of the product in Yosemite National Park, we investigated the accuracy of remotely sensed data and created leaf area index maps using three optical in-situ instruments: LAI-2000; digital hemispheric photography, or DHP; and the Tracing Radiation and Architecture of Canopies, or TRAC, instrument. We compared our in-situ data with three spectral vegetation indices derived from Landsat Thematic Mapper imagery: Reduced Simple Ratio, or RSR; Simple Ratio; and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. (This comparison produced) models that created leaf area index maps at 30-m and 1-km resolution.

The strongest correlations occurred between digital hemispheric photography leaf area index values and Reduced Simple Ratio. Pixel values from the 1-km leaf area index map were then compared to pixel values from a MODIS leaf area index map. A strong correlation exists between our in-situ data and MODIS leaf area index values. (The correlation) confirms its accuracy for use by the National Park Service as a decision support tool in Yosemite. The MODIS leaf area index product is particularly useful because of its high temporal resolution of one to two days and (because it) can be used to monitor current and future vegetation changes. The model created using the in-situ data can also be applied to Landsat data to provide 30 years of historical leaf area index values.

Explain the research you conducted through your NASA involvement, and why this topic is important.

The NASA Goddard project that I worked on is still an important research project, and I consider it an important accomplishment of mine. It mapped land cover changes on the Navajo Reservation. I am still interested in studying land cover changes on the reservation and how land use habits have affected these changes over time. In particular, I looked at grazing and farming changes on the Navajo Reservation in Shiprock, N.M. The project studied an area 47-53 miles in diameter. I observed sand dune formations and evidence of erosion within the Shiprock watersheds. This project compares and contrasts images from Landsat 5 (taken on) July 4, 1989, to Landsat 7 (taken on) Sept. 12, 2000. I used image analysis tools, including ENVI, ArcGIS, Photoshop and Excel.

Landsat maps with ground cover changes represented by different colors

As part of her internship, Anjanette studied ground cover changes in the Shiprock, N.M., watersheds. These maps compare and contrast images taken by the Landsat satellites on July 4, 1989, and Sept. 12, 2000. Image Credit: NASA

Land use monitoring on grazing and farming areas shows how much of the urban and rural area has changed within these years. The Landsat 5, or L5, satellite imagery shows how much farming or grazing use has differentiated from the Landsat 7, or L7, imagery. In the images, change indicates whether the farming or grazing areas have developed into a home-site area. I compared L5 to L7 by using change detection techniques. Several areas revealed a noticeable change. For example, the maps to the right illustrate a land use change map, and the colors represent change. There are eight classes on both images: white represents soil; light brown is sparse grassland (open); olive is rabbit brush and yucca; brown is sage; green is vegetation; dark green is pine and juniper; yellow is ponderosa trees; and purple is Russian olive and sedan.

These two maps show how the classes have changed over the years. Sand dunes are a possible land use change in Shiprock. If sand dunes appear, they will show some movement on Earth's surface. Images from 1989 to 2000 show watersheds indicating the increased number of water sources. Noticeable changes indicate erosion has occurred within the watershed. Even though my latest image was six years ago, I feel this change over 11 years is accurate. My observations reveal a growing problem of overgrazing and poor management techniques on the Navajo Reservation. This land use change is important to the Navajo people because it will determine urbanization that could help lower grazing rights to farmers and improve land cover changes. So, Shiprock residents may benefit from the project's outcome because it reveals land use changes over time.

What has been the most exciting part of your research?

Starting my project and presenting it at ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc.) in the summer of 2008 were the most exciting parts of my research. I enjoyed telling people about my project, as well as presenting it to fellow students at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute. When I started the project, it was confusing and difficult until I met with my mentor. It was very fulfilling once I started.

What is your educational background and what are your future educational plans?

My future plans are to finish an A.S. at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute and to pursue a bachelor's degree in archaeology and to get my master's degree following that. I’m very excited to finish my A.A. at the University of New Mexico and to be in my first year of my bachelor's degree there. I’m interested in starting my graduate degree.

What inspired you to choose the education/career field you did?

My mother is still my inspiration. She was very interested in surveying, mapping, global positioning systems and land observations. I am grateful my mother took on this task so I can follow in her footsteps. She took on this task when she would watch her father build things outdoors and surveying his allotment. So, my gratitude extends out to my grandfather as well. I admire my mother and my grandfather. These two individuals are my inspiration to getting where I'm at in the GIS field.

What do you think will be the most important things you’ll take away from your involvement with NASA?

The main thing I will take from NASA is networking. They gave me the ability to communicate with other interns and NASA employees. Getting to know other interns was liberating because they come from different fields of interest and they have great stories to tell, especially about being young and still trying to work and fight to get what you really want. NASA employees have been encouraging to those who believe that (they) will get somewhere and make a difference. I truly give my gratitude to NASA for believing in future engineers.

How do you think your NASA involvement will affect your future?

I believe that networking with interns and employees will help me to get a foot in the door and then move forward. It's a great opportunity to be involved with NASA and its future.

What are your future career plans?

My career plans are to get a job that applies GIS to archaeology. I want to set maps up that will locate the entire archaeological site on the Navajo Reservation. Using GIS in the archaeology field will broaden my interest, and I can use GIS to help locate all the sites and areas from different tribes. I'm looking forward to this day that will get me closer to my career.

What advice would you have for other students who are interested in becoming involved with, or working for, NASA?

My advice to other students is to do well in school because that will definitely help you get an internship or scholarships, and these are the stepping tools for NASA.

How might you expect to contribute as a participant as a NASA Student Ambassador?

As a NASA Student Ambassador, I expect to contribute by seeking out Native American students so they can be the stepping stones for NASA because we are the future of NASA.

Related Resources:
>  NASA Student Ambassadors
>  NASA's MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) Site
>  NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
>  NASA's Ames Research Center
>  NASA Education