2014 Posters on the Hill

The following posters represented the geosciences at CUR’s Posters on the Hill, April 29, 2014.

Alabama

STUDENT: Casey L. Calamaio
INSTITUTION: University of Alabama in Huntsville
STUDENT HOME STATE: Vermont
DIVISION: Geosciences
FACULTY ADVISOR: Robert Griffin
POSTER TITLE: From Lindbergh to the International Space Station: 75 Years of Remote Sensing Land Cover Change in Panama
SPONSORING AGENCY: SERVIR Program NASA Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute

ABSTRACT: The field of remote sensing has come a long way over the past century. Opportunistic pilots with handheld cameras have given way to mission specific space-borne platforms that can increasingly target features with high spatial and spectral resolution. The research presented here highlights the history of remote sensing through collaborative research I’ve undertaken with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and NASA’s SERVIR Program (Regional Visualization and Monitoring System). I focus here on the region around Panama, occupying the narrow isthmus between Central and South America. This region is ecologically important, being a natural corridor for species between the continents. In addition, this region is economically important in that its largest public work, the Panama Canal, has a profound impact on global markets. Although satellite remote sensing has only been around since the 1970s, I have been able to examine the history of land cover change in Panama by digitizing and geolocating the Smithsonian’s catalog of aerial photographs spanning much of the twentieth century, the earliest of which date back to Charles Lindbergh’s flights over the Canal in 1927. These black-and-white aerial photographs present an interesting juxtaposition against my ongoing research working with the International Space Station SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System (ISERV) Pathfinder, a testbed camera system developed at and currently on board the ISS. In this poster I compare information derived from historic aerial photographs and the ISERV space-borne camera system to examine both ecological land cover change as well as the value of new remote sensing technologies.

Alaska

STUDENT: Sam Herreid
INSTITUTION: University of Alaska-Fairbanks
STUDENT HOME STATE: Alaska
DIVISION: Geosciences
FACULTY ADVISOR: Anthony Arendt
POSTER TITLE: First estimates of glacier melt rate reduction from rock debris cover for all Alaska glaciersDISPLAY AREA: 1C
SPONSORING AGENCY: Cryospheric Sciences program, NASA Cooperative Institute for Alaska Research, NOAA EPSCoR Alaska Space Grant program NASA

ABSTRACT: Glacier shrinkage is an accepted indicator of climate change and contributor to global sea level rise. Recent global scale glacier melt models have shown the significance of mountain glaciers (excluding Greenland and Antarctica) towards a rise in sea level. While the first suite of global models incorporate the first-order variables needed to make sound estimates and predictions, we are now investigating variables that were initially neglected. One of these variables is the presence of rock debris on a glacier’s surface, sourced mainly from valley wall erosion. Rock material above a thickness of about 2 cm will reduce the local glacier melt rate by regulating the solar energy available for melt at the ice surface (under the rock layer). We have collected 4 years of field data on Alaskan glaciers aimed at better understanding the relationship between the presence of rock debris and the melt response of the ice below. We have also developed a method to accurately map debris cover at regional or global scales. We have used this method to compile the first exhaustive digital inventory of debris cover on glaciers for the entire state of Alaska. Alaska hosts 12% of mountain glacier area on earth and our results show that 21% of Alaskan glacier area is covered by a layer of rock debris. We will use our field observations and Alaska wide debris cover inventory to make a first-order estimate of glacier melt rate reduction from rock debris cover, a factor previously unaccounted for in existing models.

Georgia

STUDENT: Lydia C. Babcock-AdamsINSTITUTION: University of GeorgiaSTUDENT HOME STATE: Georgia
DIVISION: Geosciences
FACULTY ADVISOR: William Miller
POSTER TITLE: Deep Ocean Photochemistry: Reevaluating the Role of UV Radiation on the Global Marine Organic Carbon Cycle
SPONSORING AGENCY: Chemical Oceanography award National Science Foundation
GRANT #: OCE-1234388

ABSTRACT: Earth’s increasing average temperature is linked to rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, which currently contains about the same amount of carbon found in the ocean in the form of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). These two critical carbon pools are balanced globally by continual exchange, with small changes capable of large climatic effects. Interestingly, most oceanic DOC is “refractory” carbon (DOrC), meaning bacteria cannot consume it quickly, and this pool dominates the deep, dark ocean. Dated at 4000-6000 years old, DOrC has travelled through the entire ocean 4-6 times, spending hundreds of years in sunlit surface waters where photochemistry (reactions driven by sunlight) is known to break apart carbon-containing molecules, form CO (carbon monoxide), CO2, and other small molecules that allow rapid DOC removal. These findings raise the question: Is DOrC really photochemically reactive? Our research addressed this question with shipboard experiments on the RV Melville designed to determine the photo-reactivity of DOrC. Experiments were performed on seawater retrieved from the deep North Pacific where the DOrC pool is oldest. Long-term exposures in a solar simulator showed CO production falling almost to zero in deep and surface samples over 24-48 hours. This suggests that photo-reactive DOC initially present is rapidly lost, leaving DOrC which must be unreactive. When substantiated by our related studies, these novel findings that ~75% of the global DOC pool is NOT photo-reactive, will force a significant reevaluation of the role of marine photochemistry in DOC dynamics, the global carbon budget, and global climate change.

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