Students' Science Research Projects Contribute to Policy Considerations

Jun 03, 2013, 11:39 ET from Institute for Global Environmental Strategies

ARLINGTON, Va., June 3, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- High school students from across the United States explored real policy challenges in a national environmental research contest. Validating the existence and distribution of lunar tidal waves, developing the first spatial ecology model of cape vultures, and establishing the correlation between wildfires and surface ozone were the focal points of the top entries of the 2013 Thacher Environmental Research Contest.

Founded by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), this annual competition recognizes high school students for innovative research using the latest geospatial tools and data.

First-place winner Jesse Zhang, from Boulder, Co., won $2,000 with a study of lunar tidal winds, shifts in the gravitational force of the Moon that produce perturbations in the Earth's atmosphere and impact global radio communications and navigation systems. By analyzing data gathered by the High Resolution Doppler Imager (HRDI) onboard the NASA Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), Zhang was able to isolate lunar tides and provide evidence of the validation of the theoretical Global Scale Wave Model (GSWM). The study not only provides a direct contribution to atmospheric lunar tides research, but is also a compelling example of the important relationship between observations and theoretical modeling.

Second-place winner Caroline Cole, from Livingston, N.J., received $1,000 for the use of satellite telemetry tracking data to develop a spatial ecology model of a cape vulture species endemic to South Africa and classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This understating "is critical to recognizing which conservation measures are most relevant in protecting the species from continued decline," Cole writes. Her analysis points to the birds' dependence of carcass feeding sites provided by local farmers, which she concludes should be a primary conservation focus.  

So-Yun Kim, from Superior, Co., won third prize and $500 for a compelling analysis of multiple data sets, including data from Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Service and NASA to understand the correlation between wildfires and surface ozone in Colorado. Kim highlighted the importance of understanding the variety of surface ozone drivers to address associated human health effects, such as respiratory and cardiovascular issues.

"What is particularly rewarding of this year's winners is that they made connections with some of the real policy challenges our community is grappling with," said Nancy Colleton, president of IGES and founder of the award. "From assessing impacts to our critical infrastructure, and informing conservation and public health measures, their work exemplifies why remote sensing is so important for our society."

About IGES

Located in Arlington, Va., IGES was established in 1994 and is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization supported by public and private entities. IGES is a trusted leader in Earth and space science education, communication and outreach, and in fostering national and international cooperation in Earth observations.


SOURCE Institute for Global Environmental Strategies