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Alaska Research Infrastructure Development

Through an Alaska NASA EPSCoR seed grant, we utilized advanced remote sensing (LiDAR) methods to map forest characteristics, coupled those with measurements of streamwater chemistry, and then modeled chemistry from that remote sensing information. The result is a means to estimate streamwater concentrations of various nutrients from air or space, essential in the hard to traverse landscape of southeast Alaska. Future work will expand on these results by exploring options for scaling up to larger areas, potentially utilizing new NASA missions like the ICESAT-2 space-born LiDAR platform, and incorporating these results into other regional efforts like stream temperature modeling, important for salmon habitat and a key climate change dependent consideration. The NASA EPSCoR RID project “Detecting sparse sea ice using SAR in the Chukchi Sea” is a collaborative project where researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are using remote sensing tools to better understand how sparse sea ice influences walrus distributions in late summer. Using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) the researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are tracking the persistence of sea ice over productive offshore areas around Hanna Shoal to identify how diminishing sea ice affects the formation of large walrus haul outs along the Alaska coast. As part of building collaborative relationships with NASA researchers the scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are working with researchers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to gain insight on the focal areas and availability of additional high resolution remote sensing data to ground truth low concentrations of sea ice. While this project focuses on the methods to detect sparse sea ice it is also helping to evaluate how NASA data products can be applied to ecological studies that track changes in sea ice at different scales. Another NASA EPSCoR RID seed project, “Estimating yearround surface energy fluxes in Alaska Arctic and sub-Arctic watersheds through remote sensing and field measurements,” Dr. Cristóbal established a strong interdisciplinary team with research partners from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, and the University of Maryland. Dr. Cristóbal also provided mentorship and an exceptionally positive experience for undergraduate student, Patrick Graham, who was involved in all aspects of this research. The datasets and results from this project benefit a large application science community that uses data from current NASA missions such as Landsat, TERRA/AQUA, NPOESS for climate research. It also benefits the researchers involved in preparatory science for planned NASA satellite missions such as SMAP and HyspIRI.


Top: Aerial photography is one of the tools used to ground truth SAR detections of sea ice used by Pacific walrus as a platform to stay close to offshore foraging areas in the Chukchi Sea. Middle: Dr. Jordi Cristóbal atop a 24 m (~80 ft) tall observational tower in interior Alaska, installing a suite of instruments to measure essential climate variables. Maintaining such equipment in Alaska is difficult because of the remoteness and harsh winter conditions. Year-round measurements from this flux tower are used to calibrate and validate local and regional scale surface energy balance models that use input data from NASA satellite missions. Bottom: John Krapek, Masters student at UAF, sampling streamwater chemistry high in the south fork of Cowee Creek. High resolution remote sensing is being used to predict stream chemistry and nutrient flows from forests and into the marine environment.

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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