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SURF: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty and JPL technical staff for the SURF program. Additional AOs for the Amgen Scholars program can be found here.

Specific GROWTH projects being offerred for summer 2017 can be found here.

Students pursuing opportunities at JPL must be U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.

Each AO indicates whether or not it is open to non-Caltech students. If an AO is NOT open to non-Caltech students, please DO NOT contact the mentor.

Announcements of Opportunity are posted as they are received. Please check back regularly for new AO submissions! Remember: This is just one way that you can go about identifying a suitable project and/or mentor.

Announcements for external summer programs are listed here.

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Project:  MISR Plume Height Project
Disciplines:  Earth Science, Environmental Science
Mentor:  Abigail Nastan, (JPL),, Phone: (818) 354-0709
Background:  The Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) aboard NASA's Terra satellite measures atmospheric and surface properties with nine cameras viewing at different angles. These multiple views allow the height and motion vectors of clouds and smoke plumes to be retrieved using stereoscopic methods. MISR INteractive eXplorer (MINX) is used to visualize MISR data and to analyze properties of smoke plumes. MINX enables users to interactively digitize smoke plumes and automatically retrieve heights and winds, aerosol properties, and the radiative power of the fires associated with plumes. The MISR team has chosen to use human digitizing technicians for plume height determination rather than using an automated method, because the complexity in some scenes of MISR satellite imagery requires a level of pattern recognition skills and intuition that would take a great deal of time to develop into a successful algorithm. Some of the scene complexities that need to be addressed by a technician include resolving the spatial overlap of plumes and clouds, determining the direction(s) of plume motion, distinguishing wind-corrected plume heights from terrain heights, assessing if retrieved heights and winds are reasonable for local conditions, etc. Since 2007, the MISR team has participated in a project to measure plume heights and wind speeds from forest fires in North America. More recently, the project has been extended to other regions of the world, and to other types of plumes (e.g., dust and volcano). The plume data provide scientists who are interested in plume dynamics and in model parameterization with high-precision observations. To date more than 50,000 smoke plumes have been digitized by numerous summer students as well as MISR staff.

Please email Abbey Nastan: to apply/inquire but please direct your inquiries to: Mick Tosca. Conversely, you may contact Dr. Tosca directly at:
Description:  The MISR Plume Project has retrieved smoke plume heights over all of North America for the years 2000 through 2010. Smoke plumes for the years 2011-2015 need to be digitized to complete the time series for the period that MISR has been observing. Smoke plumes for limited time spans from many local regions of the globe have also been digitized. In 2015 and 2016, the project digitized smoke plumes globally for the year 2009 and 2010 using a new version of MINX that retrieves heights using both red-band and blue-band data. We intend to extend this global program in 2017 starting with year 2011 and extending the database as far forward as possible. Students will participate in three days of training to become familiar with the MISR instrument and its data products, to learn to use MINX effectively and to learn how to cope with data interpretation complexities. After training, they will be provided with a Mac desktop computer and a set of data to interpret and digitize. The digitizing process will be accomplished entirely at the computer using the mouse to circumscribe plume polygons, to specify the direction of smoke transport and to note unusual or interesting scenes. Interaction with a supervisor will be available whenever needed. Although digitizing smoke plumes for 2011 will occupy the large majority of the students time, they may be asked to digitize selected smoke plume data for other projects as well. In addition to the primary task, associated tasks such as ordering MISR data products from the Langley DAAC (Distributed Active Archive Center) and participating in project teleconferences may be required.
References: et al-2008-SPIE.pdf
Student Requirements:  Basic computer skills (Mac, Linux). Knowledge of basic earth science/climate processes is encouraged.
Location / Safety:  Project building and/or room locations: . Student will need special safety training: No.
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       SURF    both Caltech and non-Caltech students 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.

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