Julie Leifeld recounts Summer Internship at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

My project involved working with biologists studying remote sensing of vegetation. We set up 4 spectrometers at the top of a 30 foot tower, which took spectral data every second. My role in the project was to help the team visualize the abundance of data they had accumulated, so they could form conclusions about the health of the plants they were studying. Eventually my work will help the team form meaningful conclusions based on ground, aerial, and satellite data, which will be incorporated into large scale climate and vegetation models.

Apart from the specific work I did, it was a great experience just to be on the Goddard Space Flight Center campus. I was able to attend talks by great scientists, on climate, astronomy, and engineering. I got to see where they build and test satellites, and visited the place where they're building the James Webb Space Telescope. There were always interesting things happening at Goddard, and I was very excited by the breadth of the research being done. My favorite part about being there was talking to the other interns and scientists about the projects they're working on.

It was interesting working with biologists, because I hadn't studied or learned any biology for many years. I learned a lot about how scientists judge plant health and function, and how vegetation is affected by climate. It's easy to become focussed on the specific problems you're working on, but I like getting a view of the different aspects of climate science as well. It underlines the complexity of the climate system, and gives me new ideas for my own work. Although much of my project did not involve complicated mathematics, it did involve complicated science and data collection and evaluation techniques, which give me a better understanding of the information I base my models on.

Thank you, Julie. We look forward to hearing more from you and fellow MCRN collaborators!

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