We are happy to feature this guest post to wrap up Earth Science Week!
My name is Maggi Klug and I am a Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) studying Earth System Science. Part of my assistantship is helping lead operations for the Sally Ride EarthKAM program at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. EarthKAM is a Space Station Explorers program jointly operated by UAH, Teledyne Brown Engineering, and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.
Started by Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, EarthKAM is a NASA educational outreach initiative that enables students, teachers, and the public to learn about the Earth from the unique perspective of space. Specifically, it is a camera payload onboard the International Space Station that is installed for week-long missions 4-5 times per year to take imagery of the Earth. K-12 students can request pictures of Earth through www.earthkam.org to supplement their Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) classes. In the most recent EarthKAM mission, 28,438 students participated at 324 schools in 34 countries. They requested a total of 8,348 images.
Our UAH team is composed of 2 graduate students, 3-5 undergraduates, and our advisor, Dr. Robert Griffin, who first introduced me to the program. Two of the current Teledyne Brown Engineering Payload Developers are UAH alumni who worked with EarthKAM before I started here. We enjoy working together as a team on this amazing project.
We make sure that all the student requests are connected to the camera on station and the resulting images and their metadata make it back to the students. We also assist participants by answering questions and creating supplementary materials to help teachers with their lesson plans.
We look through every one of the 7,000+ images each mission to pick out any aesthetically striking imagery as well as noteworthy natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, weather events, and wildfires. We create annotations, story maps, and “investigating images.” The annotations point out specific features such as cities, water bodies, or local attractions help students learn geography.
Additionally, our investigating images and story maps provide more in-depth information about the country’s biodiversity, climate, weather, and resources. Teachers use our materials and also come up with their own creative ways to spark students’ interest in Earth Science. We’ve received so much positive feedback from teachers reporting that EarthKAM is their students’ favorite activity of the year and we are striving to improve the program for future missions.
I have a passion for Earth observation and environmental awareness. My undergraduate degree was also in Earth System Science with a concentration in Geographic Information Science and Remote Sensing. In my classes and other NASA-funded research opportunities, such as the NASA DEVELOP program, I have used satellite and aerial imagery to research environmental issues. I am particularly interested in land-use land-cover changes, natural disasters, and urban forestry for sustainability. In addition to EarthKAM, my assistantship requires the completion of a Master’s thesis which is aimed at using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) aerial imagery to estimate urban tree biomass.
It is very important to me to participate in earth science outreach programs such as EarthKAM. I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for cartography and the environment and helping inspire the next generation of Earth scientists.