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NASA Student Program Closes out Term with Virtual Poster Session
By: Jennifer LaPan

Students using satellite data to address community concerns in NASA's student research program, DEVELOP, are preparing to present the results of their projects from the spring term with a virtual poster session on March 22, 2012.

Earthzine, an online news source of the IEEE Committee on Earth Observation (ICEO), will host the posters, and the virtual poster session will feature the projects the DEVELOP students have been working on for the past 10 weeks. The DEVELOP National Program, funded through NASA's Science Mission Directorate Applied Sciences Program, brings students together with community leaders to address real problems using data from NASA's Earth observing satellites.

Texas Fire Map.
Click to enlarge

This spring, a student research team continued work from their project last year, which focused on burn severity and fire risk mapping in Texas. This map shows four levels of burn severity in the Possum Kingdom Lake (left) and Bastrop Complex (right) fires. Credit: NASA

This term, students from around the country completed 17 unique projects that address concerns in areas such as health and air quality, climate change, and natural disasters.

One DEVELOP project that will be featured in the Earthzine poster session works on improving health and air quality alerts in Texas. This is a continuation from a project from last year on burn severity and fire risk mapping, and the students are working with region six of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to show them how remote sensing can help determine whether "exceptional events," such as a wildfires, have an effect on air quality monitoring sensors.

"If those sensors show a high level of pollution and it is caused by an exceptional event, Texas needs to be able to prove that event caused the poor air quality levels. Currently, there isn't a methodology in place to prove that," explained Kenneth Hall, the team lead on this project and the coordinator for the DEVELOP virtual poster session.

Hall and his teammates will show how remote sensing, more specifically instruments on NASA's Terra, Aqua, Aura and CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations) satellites, can be used to fill in gaps in local air quality monitoring.

Another team that will be presenting on Earthzine is the North Carolina Oceans and Ecological Forecasting Team. This is the first DEVELOP team to use data from NASA's Aquarius satellite, which launched in June 2011, to conduct a feasibility study on the effects of Hurricane Irene, which hit the shoreline of North Carolina's Outer Banks in August 2011.

To present their research projects on Earthzine, students are encouraged to make five to six minute videos that tell the narrative of their research, including background information and key results.

"After the posters are put on Earthzine, there is a two-week blogging period for students to share their posters on different social media sites to get people to view their presentations and videos. Most importantly, they need to interact with the public about their research," explains Hall.

Having their posters on Earthzine allows more than just the students' peers to see and comment on the posters. During the last poster session, people from 89 countries viewed the projects.

After the blogging period is over, two NASA employees and one representative from Earthzine will judge the projects. The judges will be looking for good discussion on the posters, professionalism, high-quality presentation of information, and a presentation that is easily understood by the public.

First place winners of the poster contest will receive a $450 cash prize from Earthzine.

To view the DEVELOP presentations when they are posted March 22, 2012, visit http://www.earthzine.org/

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