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CUNY team to give research presentation at UMPI

Friday, 16 March 2012

A research team from the City University of New York [CUNY] will deliver a presentation at the University of Maine at Presque Isle at 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 22 to discuss the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] funded research that an UMPI student has been helping them to conduct. Their project involves calculating snow cover in the region and using the results as a predictor for spring flooding issues, potentially a valuable tool for emergency management and decision-maker officials. The public is invited to attend this research presentation, which will take place in the Geospatial Information Technology Center (GIS Lab, Folsom 201).

A team of four researchers connected with CUNY's NOAA-CREST Center [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Center] will be traveling to Presque Isle for the presentation. The group includes Dr. Tarendra Lakhankar, a scientist with the NOAA-CREST Center, and his doctoral student, Jonathan Muñoz, as well as Professor Reza Khanbilvardi, the Director of the NOAA-CREST Center, and Dr. Peter Romanov, a senior scientist with the Center for Satellite Applications and Research [STAR], the major research arm of NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service.

The NOAA-CREST Center's research and training focuses on all aspects of remote sensing including: sensor development, satellite remote sensing, ground-based field measurements, data processing and analysis, modeling, and forecasting. According to its website, the NOAA-CREST Center is an outstanding example of collaboration among institutions to recruit, educate and train students in NOAA related STEM fields of environmental remote sensing by conducting research consistent with NOAA's science and education goals and missions, and at the same time increase the STEM workforce of NOAA and the U.S.

The research team's work in Aroostook County involves sophisticated instruments at the National Weather Service Regional Office in Caribou that record detailed information about snow pack. The project also involves collecting "ground truth" measurements of snow depth, snow stratigraphy, water content, grain size and crystal form from on-the-ground observations. They will then compare and correlate these data with satellite imaging data and write a mathematical algorithm to represent snow cover over the entire region. The primary purpose is to develop predictive capability for spring flooding and thus create an emergency management preparedness plan. Phillip Boody, an UMPI Environmental Studies and Sustainability major from New Sweden, has been assisting the research team in collecting data for this project.

According to Professor David Putnam, who has served as the student supervisor and a liaison between UMPI and the NOAA-CREST Center on this effort, Boody was trained in the technical procedures required to collect the snow data early this year. The student receives a stipend from CUNY for his work and, because of the connection that has been made, CUNY has offered Boody internships and other collaborative opportunities with NOAA.

Putnam said Dr. Lakhankar contacted the University's Environmental Studies and Sustainability Program in January to recruit a student who could work with his research team on their snow radiometer field sites and facilities functioning at the Caribou National Weather Service office. Dr. Chunzeng Wang arranged for the team's first visit to northern Maine in mid-January and enlisted Boody to assist in the on-the-ground observations.

"This has been a valuable opportunity to expand my education and I feel very fortunate to be able to assist with this important work that has many implications to planning in our region," Boody said.

UMPI faculty members also are pleased with the opportunities this project has provided for Boody and the University.

"The collaborative research project provides a very good opportunity for our students and faculty, and for our program, to work with other institutions and expand the early career exchange opportunities for our students," Dr. Wang said.

"Early spring flooding from melting snow poses one of the greatest natural threats to people and communities in northern Maine," Putnam said. "This research has the potential to assist meteorologists and emergency managers in providing early warning of dangerous flood conditions. We are very fortunate to have the NOAA-CREST scientists working with a local UMPI student on their project. It provides a rare opportunity for us to collaborate with prominent national scientists and participate in current research with important socio-economic implications for our region."

The CUNY research team's presentation is open to the public. For more information about this event, contact Kim Pratt at 768-9450.