Clark University’s 2017 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fellows returned to campus this fall after a summer of research in Massachusetts and Maryland. Their faculty mentors and other attendees honored the four undergraduates at a lunch this week on campus.
Sponsored by Clark’s Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise and George Perkins Marsh Institute, in partnership with the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, the program is in its sixth year of offering highly competitive, paid summer field internships for select undergraduates.
This year’s fellows included three who worked in NOAA’s Maryland office: Tyler Anderson ’18, an environmental science major; Carly Robbins ’18, a geography major and environmental science minor; and Anika Kreckel ’18, an economics major. The fourth fellow, Alexis Stabulas ’18, an environmental science major, worked in Gloucester, Mass.
“This is a great example of a partnership between Clark University and an outside federal agency,” says Robert Johnston, director and research professor for the Marsh Institute and professor of economics. “That’s what a great university is about ‒ it’s about getting the faculty and students out in the world and engaged.”
“This experience was great for my studies and career goals,” says Anderson, whose faculty mentor is Christopher A. Williams, associate professor in the Graduate School of Geography. “I was able to work within a government agency and learn from people who are experienced in their fields.”
Anderson checked the algorithms that that NOAA professionals are using to measure ocean water depth from satellite data. He investigated out how turbid (cloudy) water caused water depth estimates that were too shallow. NOAA’s goal is to provide daily estimates of water depth that can be used to help update maps after storms or in remote areas.
Robbins, meanwhile, compared the ability of two satellites – the high-resolution satellite Sentinel 2 and the lower-resolution Sentinel 3 – to detect harmful algal blooms within small lakes in northern Florida. As the state’s population has increased, so have the frequency, duration and intensity of toxins from algal blooms, impacting the environment, public safety and the economy.
“Currently, NOAA lacks information on bloom conditions in these smaller lakes due to their satellite data having too coarse of a spatial resolution and due to an absence of ground truth data,” Robbins says. “Sentinel 2 may provide answers because it can see smaller lakes unseen by Sentinel 3.”
Under the mentorship of Florencia Sangermano, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Geography, Robbins is continuing to work on the NOAA project as part of her honors thesis.
“Being in a classroom is limiting. There, the results aren’t as meaningful, but at NOAA, I was able to be a part of work that has great implications for the planet and its people,” Robbins says. “Another major takeaway was forming relationships with other NOAA scientists, ones who were directly supervising my work.”
The third NOAA Fellow in Maryland was Kreckel, who researched “Advancing Integration of Natural Capital Principles into American Businesses.” Her faculty mentor is Dana Marie Bauer, assistant director and research scientist of the George Perkins Marsh Institute.