SARP 2012 Concludes

After a summer spent working in an airplane, in the field, in the lab, and at their computers, SARP 2012 participants finally presented the results of all of their hard work!  The SARP final presentations were attended by all of the SARP students, mentors, faculty and staff.  In addition, Randy Albertson (Deputy Director of NASA’s Airborne Science Program), Dr. Ken Jucks (Program Manager for NASA’s Upper Atmospheric Research Program) and Dr. Ming-Ying Wei (NASA Office of Earth Science Manager of Education Programs) also traveled to Irvine to watch the student presentations.

Dr. Ming-Ying Wei talks to SARP participants about graduate fellowship opportunities at NASA

Many students were quite nervous before the talks began, but everyone overcame their nerves and gave fantastic presentations on their exciting results!

SARP participant, Olivia Clifton, presents her research project

Each student gave an American Geophysical Union (AGU)- style conference presentation  (12 minute talk, 3 minutes for questions) on the results of his or her individual research project.  In addition, each student wrote an abstract (all abstracts can be found here)

Videos of all of the student presentations have been posted on the SARP 2012 website:

The eight students from Team Delicious (Ustin group) and then the eight Aquanauts (Kudela group) presented their results on the first day.  The BNB’s (Lefer group) and WAS (Blake group) presented on the second day.

The Ustin and Kudela groups pose after completing their final presentations (Tuesday August 7)

The Lefer and Blake groups after their final presentations (Wednesday August 8)

The quality of research was so high this year that nine of the thirty-two SARP students submitted first-author abstracts to conferences with their faculty advisors and mentors as co-authors (eight students submitted to the AGU meeting in San Francisco and one will submit to the ASLO Aquatic Sciences meeting in New Orleans).

We are all so proud of the quality of science that the students accomplished in only 8-weeks! 

SARP 2012 in the Field: Santa Barbara Channel

Aquaknots: Adventurers of the Deep (and not so deep)!

By Sherry Palacios

SARP 2012 has been a fortunate confluence of being prepared, luck, and most importantly – having an outstanding group of students in the Oceans group. During the brief two weeks in Palmdale, the students defined their project goals and put together a cruise plan for our field trip to the waters offshore of Santa Barbara, CA on the dive boat Raptor.

A cartoon by Brent Cedric Nicklas showing the members of the SARP Oceans group (aka The Aquanauts)

SARP Oceans group prepares to board the Raptor for their research cruise

Student projects included three approaches to ship tracking using imagery, in-water optics, and HF Radar. Nathan Adams (Southern Nazarene University), Brent “Bubbles” Nicklas (Michigan Tech), and Laura Spindler (Embry Riddle Aeronautical University) each addressed some component of the ship tracking question. Nathan and Laura’s projects depended primarily on the MODIS/ASTER Simulator (MASTER) and Cirrus Digital Camera System (DCS) imagery collected aboard the Orion P-3 aircraft and the Automatic Identification System (AIS) data collected from instrumented ships transmitting telemetry to a centralized server. These measurements gave them the time, location, and velocity of the ships. Nathan modeled ship velocity from the optics of boat wakes (observed in the imagery) and Laura modeled the trajectory of objects lost from the ships. While Brent and Nathan had similar questions, Brent addressed his using direct measurements of the optical properties of the bubble-rich wake instead of the imagery. The field trip was very important for him to collect high quality radiance spectra of the Raptor’s boat wake while traveling at specific speeds. He used these spectra, and spectra from a ship of opportunity, to develop a theoretical model for spectral characteristics and ship speed.

Another area of research for the Oceans group included the ecology, physiology, physical structure, and biogeochemical influence of the giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera. James Allen (University of Tennessee – Martin), Samantha Trumbo (Cornell University), and Elizabeth Phillippi (Valparaiso University) examined questions related to kelp forest dynamics. Samantha’s research involved building a depth integrated primary productivity model for the giant kelp. She modeled the underwater light field using the radiative transfer equations using HydroLight™, and then applyed her depth integrated productivity model to a variety of possible light environments predicted by HydroLight™. In addition, she modeled the differences between surface and subsurface kelp productivity, and the difference in productivity of three age-dependent tissue types: immature, mature, and senescent. Elizabeth developed an algorithm to quantify colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) point sources in the Santa Barbara channel. Her work mainly focused on the gradient of CDOM present from within a kelp bed towards blue water. Her initial goal was to estimate the flux of this carbon rich material to the waters surrounding the kelp bed. CDOM, a subset of the dissolved organic matter, is a carbon-rich pool available to the microbial food web. Presently, it is unknown how much of a carbon source kelp beds really are. The third project in the kelp forest group was James Allen, who worked on building two methods to more accurately quantify surface and subsurface kelp. He then tested his two new algorithms, one an index and one a spectral library, against the commonly used normalized difference vegetation index to see if there is a better way to account for an overlying water column when making kelp canopy area estimates. All three of the students benefited from the generous loan of the Compact Optical Profiling System (C-OPS) from John Morrow at Biospherical, Inc. The high quality radiance and irradiance data were invaluable to Elizabeth for developing her CDOM algorithm and to Samantha for validating her HydroLight™ profiles of the underwater light field.

A SARP tradition – the tasting of the kelp

Moving away from the kelp forest and into the Santa Barbara Channel, Jacey Wipf (South Dakota School of Mines & Technology) developed an empirical pCO2 model to use satellite derived estimates of chlorophyll-a and sea surface temperature to estimate both surface nitrate concentrations and pCO2 in the Santa Barbara Channel. This question arose from her background in atmospheric sciences and an interest in air-sea flux processes. She was our truly interdisciplinary SARP participant. She analyzed imagery from MASTER and MODIS, gathered in situ data from research groups at Scripps Institute of Oceanography and UC – Santa Barbara, and used underway and air can data that she and others collected during the P-3 overflights and the research cruise.

Moving even farther away from Santa Barbara, the last member of the Aquaknots, Emma Accorsi (Emory University), developed a novel spectral algorithm to differentiate between the toxic cyanobacterial genera Aphanizomenon and Microcystis in fresh water systems. Aphanizomenon excretes saxitoxin which causes neurologic shellfish poisoning and Microcystis produces the toxin microcystin, known to cause liver damage with acute exposure and promote tumors with chronic exposure. Microcystin can cause severe damage at low concentrations and its delivery to the body is by drinking water or recreational activities. Presently the State of California is developing policy to monitor for Microcystis, but those regulations are in their infancy. It has been observed that Aphanizomenon blooms precede Microcystis blooms. Emma developed a method so that Aphanizomenon can be detected as a warning that the more deadly Microcystis is lurking in low concentrations in the water and may bloom soon.

So, in an effort to test all of the hypotheses we set out from Irvine at 6 am on July 5th, after a very late night on July 4th. We set out from the Santa Barbara Harbor and motored to the Isla Vista kelp bed where we sampled with the instruments and had a little taste of the kelp (just to get to know our study subject). Laura ran her rubber-ducky drifter study, Brent collected radiance spectra of the boat wake at varying speeds, Nathan was the data taker, Samantha and James took charge of the C-OPS, Elizabeth collected CDOM and measured Secchi depth, Jacey and Emma collected temperature profiles and air samples, and Raphe and I watched our team make quick work of the many stations we had planned that day.

Celebrating successful data collection!

I think everyone agreed, it was a good day to be out on the water and it was a good day for science.

SARP 2012 in the Field: Central Valley Oil Fields

By Greg Hartt, SARP Mentor

On July 3rd, the WAS (Whole Air Sampler) Group took off for the sunny San Joaquin Valley in central California to start our ground sampling trip in the oil fields near Bakersfield, CA. With an early 6:00 am start, nearly everyone spent the entire 2.5 hour van ride on the I-5 catching up on some sleep after spending the previous day in lab.

Our goal was to map the hydrocarbon emissions of the oil infrastructure in the Buena Vista, Elk Hills, and Midway-Sunset oil fields to compare with our flight data from the P-3B. In previous SARP years, our lab has focused on the emissions from dairy farms in the Central Valley, so we wondered what effect the oil fields were having on the air quality in the southern parts of the Valley. While I had done some field work around the oil fields in the spring it always seems like an adventure taking air samples up there.

Midway-Sunset and Buena Vista oil fields.

After getting off of I-5 and taking the requisite bathroom break, we started our air sampling in an agricultural area. We went over sampling technique – hold the canister up high, position yourself downwind of the canister, open slowly to allow a constant flow of air over ~30 seconds. After everyone knew what to do, we started our sampling expedition. Kelvin acted as our designated bookkeeper, recording all of the locations, times, temperatures, wind directions, etc. Ricky served as a navigator, helping move from sample site to sample site, and everyone else shared the sampling and measurement jobs throughout the day.

 Early on, we encountered a dog named Albie, who was excited to make nine new friends. Unfortunately, we had to leave him behind.

After the group warmed up with some samples off of CA-119, we took the van on some dirt roads to take samples downwind of the Elk Hills oil field. Fortunately, everyone’s stomach handled the half hour of bumpy driving – I would expect nothing less after they all fared so well on the P-3B flights.

Tamara takes an air sample near oil wells near the road.

Returning from our washboard road experience, we continued south to head through the Buena Vista oil field to begin our air sampling in the Midway-Sunset oil field, north of Taft, CA. When I started sampling in this area in February, I was astonished by the density of oil wells in this area. I was clearly not alone when the SARP students started gasping as we rounded a corner to see the Midway-Sunset oil field.

Midway-Sunset oil field.

After taking another 15 air samples in the heat, it was time for a break, so we pulled the van over next to an aqueduct north of Midway-Sunset. We all enjoyed the rest and our late-afternoon lunches, but it was soon time to move on to the next sample site in the middle of the Elk Hills oil field.

We finished off the afternoon by taking some samples among the dairies and orchards to determine the inflow from upwind locations. Finally, after eight hours of sampling in and around the oil fields, it was time to return home. Slogging through the rush hour traffic in LA, most people napped after a long day in the field, getting ready to start analyzing the samples the next morning.

Map of our sample site locations (blue dots) and the P-3B flight track (white line)

SARP 2012 in the Field: Delano Vineyards

By Shane Grigsby, SARP Mentor

Tuesday, June 26th

Tuesday was our first day in Delano, the town closest to our field study area. We drove in from Palmdale, a trip that took us past the Mojave Desert and over the southern foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Our destination, Delano, is a small, unassuming agricultural town of about 30,000 residents located in the central Joaquin Valley. The town is best known as the setting for John Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’.

Figure 1.1: Kate Garner admires the vineyard at our field site in Delano

Upon arrival, we checked into the Liberty Best Western Inn and headed to our field site. Our field site consisted of two blocks of vineyard owned by Delano Farms, one of which was subjected to water stress (half irrigation for 7-10 days), while the second block served as the control. The field site is part of a multiple-year water stress experiment run by Dr. Ustin’s colleague Dr. Smart, of the Department of Viticulture at UC-Davis. Once at the field site, Dr. Smart explained the history of the area, the nature of the experiment, how water stress is measured, and the larger impacts of water management to the state of California. In addition to meeting with Dr. Smart and his research group, we met with Dr. Ustin’s CSTARS group and discussed our sampling methodology for the following two days.

Wednesday, June 27th
Wednesday was our flight day. Some of the measurements for the experiment, such as Leaf Area Index (LAI), had some flexibility for the sampling window as they didn’t change much over small timescales. However, some of our measurements, such as water stress and water content, either follow diurnal cycles or change significantly over a few hours. To account for this, on Wednesday we took both imagery calibration measurements and in-situ field measurements for a variety of fast-changing field parameters.

Figure 1.2: From left (standing): Tao Cheng, Shane Grigsby, Dr. Alsina-Marti (Mimar), Professor David Smart, and Austin Hopkins. Kate Garner and David Buckley are in the foreground. Professor Smart discusses agriculture, water management and plant stress.

Figure 1.3: From left: Susan Ustin, Michael Whiting, Tao Cheng and John Gajardo discuss field methods and sampling techniques

Figure 1.4: David Buckley demonstrates proper all day-field attire: light-colored long-sleeve cotton shirt, wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses

Figure 1.5: Kate Garner uses a radiometer gun for thermal calibration

Tao Cheng demonstrated many of the measurements needed for imagery calibration, including field spectral measurements with the ASD spectrometer, thermal measurements with the radiometer gun, and how to set up Spectralon panels.

Figure 1.6: Chris Goyne is outfitted by Tao Cheng with ASD field spectrometer

For the water stress parameters, we sampled leaves for both water content and water stress. Ideally, we wanted the measurements to be as close to the flyover time as possible, so we formed several small groups to bag leaves simultaneously. The leaves for water content were picked in sets of three per vine, from nine vines per sample site, at twelve different sample sites. Water stress was measured using two ‘pressure bomb’ systems, which determined the amount of pressure needed to force water out of the leaf through the stem. We took each measurement twice to align with the MASTER overflights, once in the morning and again in the afternoon.

After the fieldwork concluded, we met at our lab, which is based at Liberty Best Western Inn. At the lab, we took additional spectral measurements and first estimates for leaf area and water content from our leaf samples. Additionally, we calculated the hemispherical transmittance and reflectance with an integrating sphere provided by Dr. Ustin’s group. This allowed us to solve for absorption. We completed lab analysis by determining leaf area with a LiCor table.

Figure 1.7: Mimar explains the pressure bomb operation to Chris Goyne

Figure 1.8: The P-3 flying one of our data acquisition flight lines

Figure 1.9: Kate Garner explains the LiCor scanning system to Peter Eckert; leaf samples awaiting processing are visible under the trash bags in the foreground

We ended the day by reviewing the set-up procedure for the LiDAR system in preparation for the next day’s work, and commemorating our efforts with a group LiDAR ‘photo’.

Thursday, June 28th

For our final day of sampling we primarily examined LAI, which is used as a proxy for plant productivity. We initiated the fieldwork with an explanation of surveying techniques, a demonstration of how to set up tribrechs, and exercises in taking differential GPS points.

Figure 1.10: Aleeza and Kate cut leaves in preparation for the LiCor scanner, which requires flat leaf samples for analysis

Figure 1.11: Anthony controls the scanning rate for the LAI assessments

Figure 1.12: Mimar and Peter Eckert move one of the Flux Towers, which is used to collect data on the surface energy budget

Figure 1.13: The first scanning position with the scanner elevated above the canopy

Figure 1.14: Shane Grigsby explains survey techniques for GPS setup

We set up reflectors for the LiDAR scans and separated into groups to take measurements. Dr. Smart and Mimar supervised the students for a second day of water stress measurements, while Dr. Ustin’s research group collected reference LAI measurements. As we had sampled leaves on Wednesday and calculated out leaf area, on Thursday we collected full cane samples. This was accomplished by selecting a vine, from which several full canes were removed to obtain leaf number and cane number counts.

Figure 1.15: Reflectors arranged for linking together multiple LiDAR scans

To acquire canopy structure, leaf estimates, and leaf angles, we scanned a transect between the two data blocks. In order to take these measurements, we needed to get the equipment above the canopy–an endeavor that required some teamwork to get equipment on top of a Smart lab truck.

Figure 1.16: Shane, Austin and John set up the LiDAR scanner

Figure 1.17: Shane and Austin work with the scanner in darkness to reduce glare on the data laptop

SARP 2012 Week 2: Students fly on the NASA P-3B

The second week of SARP began bright and early with a 5:40AM departure from the hotel for the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility (DAOF) in order to prepare for the 8AM takeoff of our first SARP flight.
After a 6:30AM preflight briefing by the P-3 pilots and crew, the first flight took off at 8AM with all of the Ustin group onboard.  The goal of this flight was to calibrate the MASTER instrument over Lake Tahoe (flying several lines at different altitudes over temperature targets) and to test all of the other instruments (AVOCET, WAS, and the UH instruments).  Onboard the P-3, the Ustin group got the opportunity to learn about and and assist in the operation of all of the instruments.  The flight was very smooth and the group returned with broad smiles after their 3-hour flight.

Flight track (in red) from the June 25th morning flight.

After lunch, the second flight (and first science flight) took off with half of the Blake group and half of the Kudela group onboard.  Thanks to our meteorologist, Dr. Fuelberg, we knew that the Santa Barbara Channel was going to be very clear and that we had the opportunity to collect fabulous, cloud-free data.

Altitude profile for the afternoon flight on June 25.  Note the low altitude over the LAX runway

Flight track (in red) for the June 25th afternoon flight. 

Those of us on the ground were able to chat with those onboard via a text-chatting application called x-chat.  Dr. Sherry Palacios, the ocean group mentor who was onboard the P-3, provided frequent updates about what was going on inside the plane.  After all of the science goals of the flight were completed (including a missed-approach over LAX, samples of clean marine air off of the coast and polluted air from the LA basin, and flight lines over the Santa Barbara Channel), the pilots gave all onboard a special treat by letting them experience zero gravity (for just a second).

At the end-of-day postflight briefing, everyone who flew for the first time received an Airborne Science Program pin from our pilot in a special ceremony.

Fortune smiled on us yet again with clear weather over the Santa Barbara Channel!  After a group shot in front of the P-3, the first flight of the day took off for Santa Barbara.  After takeoff, the Ustin group left Palmdale to drive to Delano, CA for their field trip.

SARP 2012 group shot in front of the P-3 before takeoff on June 26, 2012

Flight track (in red) for the morning flight on June 26

The afternoon flight was extremely bumpy because most of it took place below the boundary layer.  The P-3 also flew 6 missed approaches over airports in the Los Angeles Basin on this flight!  Upon their return, many SARPians looked a little green but everyone was very excited about the amount of data that was collected.

Altitude profile for the afternoon flight on June 26.  Note the six low altitude passes over Los Angeles area airports

Flight track (in red) for the afternoon flight on June 26

The Ustin group was in the field at a vineyard in Delano, CA taking ground-truth measurements while the P-3 flew overhead collecting remote sensing data with MASTER during both the morning and afternoon flights. 

Flight track (in red) for the morning flight on June 27

The P-3 as seen from a vineyard near Delano, CA (Image Credit: Kate Garner)

The Ustin group prepares for the P-3 overflight (Image Credit: Kate Garner)

In addition to the MASTER lines over the vineyards, we also collected air samples and air quality measurements over dairies, cow feedlots and oil fields in California’s Central Valley.

Flight track of the final SARP science flight (afternoon of June 27)

“Houston, we have cows.”  A cow feedlot in the California Central Valley as seen from the P-3

At the end of our final flight, our pilots treated us yet again to a brief zero gravity experience. 

The SARP faculty, mentors and students were all thrilled with how much data was collected during the six SARP flights!

One group (the Aquanauts) decided to forgo sleeping in so that they could watch an early ER-2 takeoff.  The ER-2 flies at such high altitudes (~70,000ft) that the pilot has to wear a spacesuit.  We watched as the pilot emerged from his life support vehicle, climbed aboard the ER-2 and took off.

SARP participants pose next to the ER-2

ER-2 pilot taps the nose of the plane for good luck
Later in the day, the P-3 departed the DAOF for its home in Virginia at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility.  We are so grateful to the P-3 pilots and crew for such fantastic flights and for making this experience possible!

After packing up and checking out of the hotel in Palmdale, the Blake, Lefer, and Kudela groups departed for the Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC).  Just outside the entrance to Edwards Air Force Base (DFRC is inside Edwards), we met up with the Ustin group who had left their field site in Delano, CA very early in the morning.  Once at DFRC, we were treated to a rare, behind the scenes tour that included the Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) and the Global Hawk control center.  We were also given an up close look at Dryden’s research fighter aircraft and many history-making aircraft such as the X-1E.

SARP 2012 poses by the X-1E

After lunch and a stop at the Dryden giftshop, all of SARP headed for the University of California Irvine, our new home for the next six weeks where students will analyze and interpret the data they collected onboard the P-3 Orion. 

SARP 2012: Week 1

The fourth annual NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) began Sunday June 17th with the arrival in California of thirty-two college and university students from across the United States. The students are all majoring in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines and were selected based on outstanding academic performance, interest in the Earth Sciences, and career goals.

Each student prepared a poster on his/her academic, research, and extracurricular interests.  All thirty-two posters were displayed in the ballroom of the hotel in Palmdale.  Students mingled with each other, SARP faculty, research mentors, and NASA scientists and administrators. 

Monday began with the rather long process of getting all of the interns badged at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility (DAOF – pronounced “day-off”).  Fortunately, this all went smoothly and the SARPians were all badged and inside our conference room by 9AM.  

Monday’s lectures began with Dr. Jack Kaye, Associate Director for Research in the NASA Earth Science Division who gave us a space-based view of the Earth’s changing climate and its implications. Dr. Ken Jucks then discussed NASA’s atmospheric composition research.   Many were surprised to learn how large of a role NASA plays in Earth and climate science research.  After lunch trips to local Palmdale eateries,  we heard from Dr. Bruce Doddridge who discussed NASA’s research program in tropospheric chemistry.  Watch all the lectures here:

The interns were then treated to a tour of the DAOF hangar where they got to see and learn all about the high flying ER-2’s, SOFIA (a telescope inside a 747), and the retired Space Shuttle Carrier that now resides outside the DAOF.  Students were able to board the Shuttle Carrier and walk around the cavernous interior.

SARP boards the Space Shuttle Carrier

Inside the Space Shuttle Carrier

Everyone also got the opportunity to sit in the cockpit.

Lucy in the cockpit of the 747 Space Shuttle Carrier

After returning inside from the tour, Randy Albertson, Deputy Director of the Airborne Science Program discussed the variety of aircraft and instrumentation available to scientists and described some past and upcoming Airborne Science campaigns.  Everyone was especially excited to learn more about the P-3 Orion, SARP’s airplane for the flights next week that will be arriving at the DAOF on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, students had their first lectures from the four faculty members who will be leading the four SARP research groups.  The research groups are:
Los Angeles Air Quality (Dr. Barry Lefer)
Whole Air Sampling (Dr. Don Blake)
Remote Sensing of the Ocean (Dr. Raphe Kudela)
Agriculture Remote Sensing (Dr. Susan Ustin)
(read more about the research groups here)

Dr. Raphe Kudela discussed the Remote Sensing of the Coastal Ocean project

In addition to these lectures, students learned all about remote sensing and the MASTER instrument from Jeff Myers of the Airborne Sensor Facility.  The last lecturer of the day,  Dr. Melissa Yang, discussed CO2 and the AVOCET instrument.

On Wednesday morning, the NASA P-3 Orion took off from its home-base at Wallops Flight Facility and began its journey to the DAOF.  We eagerly tracked the location of the plane on a map as it flew across the country during our morning lectures.  After listening to the second round of talks from each of the four research group leaders, students got the opportunity to pick which group they wanted to join.  Over lunch, the faculty and NSERC staff did our best to assign each student to his/her first choice of group (26 people got their first choice, 6 got their second).
When we returned from lunch we raced out to the end of the hangar to watch the arrival of the P-3 at the DAOF. 

NASA P-3 Orion arrives at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility

Awaiting the arrival of the P-3

After greeting the airplane and its crew, we returned to the lecture hall for lectures from SARP faculty member Dr. Henry Fuelberg who discussed meteorology for Airborne Scientists.

Dr. Henry Fuelberg

After Dr. Fuelberg’s lectures, the four research groups were revealed.  Each faculty member and mentor met with their group of eight students for the first time to discuss their plans for instrument integration, calibration and preparation for the flights next week.

On Thursday and Friday the four groups separated to work on preparing for next week.  The two atmospheric science groups had a lot of hands-on tasks to accomplish in order to finish the installation and testing of their instruments on the P-3. 

Alex L. assists with the installation of the UH air quality instruments onboard the P-3

The remote sensing groups watched as MASTER was installed on the P-3.  They had a lot less to do than the atmosphere groups and were therefore able to start seriously thinking about and preparing for their individual research projects.

The MASTER instrument is installed on the P-3

All of the instruments were successfully installed by 1PM on Friday.  At 1:30PM, the P-3 took off for a “shake flight.”  During this check-flight, the pilot performs a series of maneuvers designed to make sure that the instruments are installed properly.

While the plane was flying, Eric Buzay, the National Suborbital Education and Research Center (NSERC) Facility Instrumentation Specialist, lectured to the group instrument integration.  Dr. Fuelberg then gave us another weather update. He discussed the chances that the Santa Barbara channel would be clear for our flight on Monday afternoon (it’s looking hopeful!)  Finally, Rick Shetter, NSERC’s director, discussed all the different aspects that go into flight planning for Airborne Science missions.  He showed us the science goals and locations for the six flights next week but noted that flight planning is just that, planning, and that decisions have to be made in real-time that can alter the plan.

Saturday was a free day for the SARPians.  About half of the group went hiking in Vasquez rocks in Agua Dulce, CA. 

After hiking, everyone drove to my house in Agua Dulce for a group dinner/BBQ.

Good food and company was had by all.

All of SARP 2012 poses during the group BBQ in Agua Dulce

All in all, an excellent start for the first week of SARP 2012!  We all can’t wait for the flights next week!
Follow the progress of SARP here:

SARP 2011 Final Presentations

The last weeks of SARP seemed to fly by.  The air group headed out on several expeditions to water treatment plants in the Orange and Los Angeles county areas to take air samples. 

The Super Air Group members pose outside a water treatment facility

On Tuesday July 26 and Wedneday July 27, SARP participants gave their final American Geophysical Union-style presentations (12 minute talks with 3 minutes for questions).   For a list of the students and their presentation titles, please click here.

The audience consisted of SARP students, mentors, faculty members, Blake lab members, and NSERC staff.  In addition, we were honored to have Bruce Tagg and Randy Albertson (Director and Deputy Director of the NASA Airborne Science Program, respectively) and Dr. Ming-Ying Wei (NASA Office of Earth Science Manager of Education Programs) in the audience.

Daniel chats with Randy Albertson (lower left), Ming-Ying Wei (upper left), and Bruce Tagg (upper right) during the break between presentations

Everyone was extremely impressed with the high quality of all of the student presentations and the amount of work that was accomplished in such a short period of time.

The Land Group poses for a picture at the conclusion of their presentations with faculty member Susan Ustin, UC Davis

The Ocean group poses after their presentations with faculty member Raphe Kudela, UC Santa Cruz

The Air group poses with faculty member Don Blake of UC Irvine and Rafe Day, Blake Lab member

It has been an amazing summer filled with science, discovery, and friendship.  We are looking forward to many SARP 2011 reunions –  the first will be at AGU in December!

SARP 2011 – Ocean Safari

By Sherry Palacios

On July 6th at 6:00 am, the Oceans group departed Irvine for a two-day research trip. The first day was to be a four-hour research cruise to sample the kelp forests and oil seeps off of Santa Barbara and Isla Vista, CA aboard the dive boat Raptor. The second day included a morning talk by Kyle Cavanaugh at UC-Santa Barbara followed by sampling at the Andree Clark Bird Refuge near Montecito.

The three-hour drive to Santa Barbara began with eager chattiness and lots of questions from the students. Slowly, the early hour crept up and one-by-one each student succumbed to some awkward derivative of sleep. The last hour of the ride was silent except for my occasional giggle at the sight of ten unconscious students slumped over themselves like comatose contortionists. We eventually arrived at the Santa Barbara Harbor and waited for the boat and Professor Raphe Kudela. The students spent the time to unravel from their pretzel shapes and to tour the harbor. At least two students declared they were moving to Santa Barbara.

Students load the R/V Raptor. 

At 11:00 am we loaded the boat and were briefed by Captain Joe Cochran and Professor Kudela. We set out of the harbor for our first station and no more than a mile offshore we were met by a pod of Pacific White-sided Dolphins dashing through the bow-wake. The sun was shining, the seas were flat; this was going to be a good day.


We collected measurements in support of several research questions developed by the students, with guidance from Professor Kudela and me. These questions included:

  • How do kelp forests act as “heat islands” of the coastal ocean?
  • Can oil and methane emissions be detected and quantified using hyperspectral imagery?
  • Can ship wakes in imagery be used to estimate size, speed, and draught of a vessel?
  • Can an optical signature be developed to identify the toxic cyanobacterium Microcystis?
  • How does phytoplankton biomass vary in the Santa Barbara Channel between an El Nino year (2010) and an El Nino-neutral year (2011)?
  • Does day-to-day error exceed inter-annual error in estimates of kelp biomass from imagery? What implication does this have for interpretation?

Jimmy O’Shea, Sherry Palacios, and Runyon Woods collect lightreflectance measurements

To test these questions the students collected the following samples to use in addition to the imagery we collected from the DC-8 the prior week:

  • water temperature and salinity along a transect through the kelp
  • light reflectance from seawater, kelp, and from the salt-water marsh of the bird refuge (on July 7th)
  • chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) to measure light absorption
  • phytoplankton identification  

Kaitlin and Noah filter water samples to measure the light absorption by chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM)

Nick Atkins filters seawater to observe color from phytoplankton

Amelia Snow prepares to collect a plankton tow among the kelp fronds atIsla Vista, CA. 

At the first station, Arroyo Burro State Beach,Raphe and I discussed kelp forest ecology with the students. We demonstratedthe methods for each sample measurement and walked through the order ofoperations while collecting data. We also administered the SARP-Oceans rite ofpassage… The eating of the kelp. Almost all of the students tasted the bryozoanencrusted kelp. Most reporting that it was, “slimy, sweet, and tasted of thesea.” One student reported numbness of the tongue, but she revived soon after.

Jimmy samples the kelp

After Arroyo Burro, we motored over to our primary sample site—the Isla Vista kelp bed. This is a large, dense kelp bed just offshore of UC- Santa Barbara. We collected data along a transect: just offshore of the kelp bed, through the kelp bed, to the inside edge of the bed (near the surf zone) and then returned through the kelp offshore. All samples were collected, including some air samples for Don Blake’s group. The students took charge of the sample protocol and Raphe and were reduced to spectators. It was a lot of fun watching Zhanna take charge of the logistics; while Runyon and Michael collected water temperature and salinity; David, Julia, and Jimmy collected light reflectance spectra; Amelia, Kaitlin, and Noah collected phytoplankton and CDOM samples; and Nick carefully recorded the data. Zhanna ran a tight ship for the remainder of the stations that day. At the end of four hours, we motored back to Santa Barbara very pleased with the samples we collected. There was only one casualty of the day—the spectroradiometer stopped communicating at the second to last station. 

Oceans team celebrates the end of the cruise!

The following morning we visited UC- Santa Barbara for a talk and discussion with Kyle Cavanaugh. Kyle’s work on imaging kelp forests inspired the curriculum for the course. He gave a comprehensive overview of remote sensing research and helped some students further refine their research questions. We toured the campus after the talk. One more student declared he was moving to Santa Barbara.

After the tour, the students were confronted with the reality of field sampling… the spectroradiometer was communicating again, but now it needed an external power supply in order to sample the bird refuge. We needed those samples for David and Julia so they could work on an optical signature for Microcystis—a toxic cyanobacterium implicated in human and animal deaths. Faced with the technical challenge, the students huddled together and decided on a plan. We dispatched to the local hardware store and two competing teams raced into the store, grabbed carts, and ran down the aisles to collect supplies. The teams eventually joined forces and found the equipment, we checked out and tested the equipment… success!

Oceans team samples the Home Depot parking lot

Off to the Andree Clark Bird refuge we drove to collect reflectance spectra and CDOM samples.

Oceans team prepares to sample the Andree Clark Bird Refuge

Finally, our field trip drew to a close and we returned to Irvine to process the samples and use them to help answer the students’ research questions.

All in all.. a great trip!