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Building Capacity in Interdisciplinary Snow Sciences for a Changing World Desert Research Institute/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Ames Research Center, Science Mission Directorate

NV University of Nevada, Reno

This project aims to develop new research, technology, and education capacity in Nevada for the interdisciplinary study of snowpack, and will contribute to NASA strategic research and technology development priorities in the Science Mission Directorate and NASA’s Astrobiology program. Due to profound regional and global impacts of global change on snowpack, this project addresses key questions of NASA’s Earth Science Division such as “How is the global Earth system changing?” and “How will the Earth system change in the future?”. The educational highlights of the first months of this project include a new graduate level “Snow Science Seminar” class that has been taught in the spring semester 2015 (University of Nevada Reno, GEOL 701 Z). The class combined lectures by experts in snow hydrology, optics and energy balance, biology, and biogeochemistry, and provided a multidisciplinary education of students and faculty in these fields. A new “hands-on” Environmental Science class is in development by our local Community College faculty, and the class will open for student enrollment in the fall 2015 semester. This new class will prepare students for careers as environmental scientists, snow specialists, and technicians. Research highlights so far included first field visits and sample collections. Two field sites were selected this winter, including a site near the Sierra Nevada Pacific Crest to analyze deposition and vertical distribution of dust, impurities, nutrients, and impacts on supporting growth of snow algae. A second field site in a forested catchment in the Sierra Nevada for quantifying spatial distribution of snowpack properties, including depth, density, snow water equivalent, snow chemistry, and biological properties. Several transects from canopy-free locations to forested areas were sampled, and will serve to quantify spatial heterogeneity as well as impacts of plant and canopy covers on snow physical, chemical, and biological processes. Laboratory analytical procedures, new instruments for spectral characterization of snow surfaces, and remote-sensing capabilities are now being developed by Nevada faculty to enhance our capacity to study snow locally and across the world. Field sampling and measurement campaigns at a site near Sagehen Creek Experimental Forest, the Sierra Nevada mountains and Pacific Crest were performed to study the importance of dust for snow surface properties, snow nutrients, and snow algae growth and spatial heterogeneity and canopy effects for snow physical, chemical, and biological properties by students and faculty of this NASA EPSCoR project.

Dr. Brian Cairns, NASA Technical Monitor, Ames Research Center

Dr. Daniel Obrist, Science PI, Desert Research Institute NASA EPSCoR Stimuli 2014-15



EPSCoR Stimuli 2014-15  

NASA Office of Education’s Aerospace Research & Career Development (ARCD) is pleased to release NASA EPSCoR Stimuli, a collection of univers...

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