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While NASA’s mandate is space exploration, the nearly 60-year-old government agency also supplies an immense amount of scientific data about Earth from the organization’s satellites and other aeronautic missions.NASA requires a highly trained workforce to achieve its scientific goals. One means of finding those skilled scientists is by way of its Earth and Space Science Fellowship program, which provides training grants to principal investigators at universities and educational institutions that support graduate student research.
Three students from UC Santa Barbara have received NASA funding for earth science projects. Deanna Nash, David Miller and Michael Nowicki are among only 54 people out of 424 applicants who were so honored.
“It’s a very competitive fellowship,” said geography professor Leila Carvalho, who mentors Nash. “The fact that three UCSB students received this fellowship in one year — for terrestrial, atmospheric and oceanography studies — speaks to the breadth of the research done in our department.”
Associate professor Joe McFadden noted that UCSB’s Department of Geography is home to a wide range of the Earth system science research conducted on campus. “It’s the place where the different threads come together,” he said. “This not only provides a very interdisciplinary approach but also is very exciting for the students.”
Fellowship recipient Miller’s project examines the effects of the recent drought on California urban tree species and vegetation such as turf grass. “What’s different about my study is that it uses imagery from airplanes rather than from satellites,” explained Miller, who works with McFadden and would like to become a research scientist or an academic after he completes his doctorate. “I’m using data sets gathered by sensors being tested on planes for eventual space flight that sample a wide portion of the spectrum. Rather than using just a few parts in the visible or near-infrared, this data provides hundreds of samples …