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Climate and Society Students ‘Develop’ Research for NASA, IRI

Satellite image courtesy NASA Goddard
Satellite image courtesy NASA Goddard

Predicting malaria outbreaks before they occur and improving crop yield forecasts from space might sound like science fiction, but they’re projects going on at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). This spring, Climate and Society students Caitlin Reid and Sunny Ng jumped headlong into them as part of a NASA internship.

Reid and Ng worked with Pietro Ceccato, an IRI research scientist and internship mentor, for a 10-week intensive internship as part of NASA’s DEVELOP program. The program has 14 affiliates around the world that conduct interdisciplinary, applied research to solve environmental, health and societal problems. ”This is the first time IRI has participated in the DEVELOP intern program,” Ceccato said. ”It’s been a great experience working with Caitlin and Sunny. They advanced the research for us. Their work really moved both these projects forward.”

Over the 10 weeks Reid and Ng used satellite data to look at two major problems thousands of miles away. Reid looked at using rainfall, vegetation and temperature data to create a malaria early warning system in Ethiopia’s highlands while Ng focused on using vegetation data to improve Uruguay’s crop yield forecast lead time.

Their efforts didn’t stop at research, though. Reid and Ng also created videos explaining their research rationale, methods and results. Those videos are now in a virtual poster session along with 22 other projects carried out by students who participated in DEVELOP internships this spring. ”Their work creating these videos gave us some exposure to a wider audience,” Ceccato said.

You can view Reid’s virtual poster on predicting malaria in Ethiopia and Ng’s on crop yields in Uruguay on Earthzine.

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