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Currently showing posts tagged field work

  • One Foot in Front of the Other

    It's hard to remember that the true "science" of the CORAL campaign is quite literally the data collected by the airplane. All of the ground work - from logistics to boat hours, from instrument setup to algorithm tweaking, from underwater camera challenges to photomosaicking... all of this has but a single purpose: to validate the data collected by the airplane. To conclusively state, "Yes. The airplane imagery looks good."

    So how do you tell 14 people working their butts off for two solid weeks that the airplane still isn't ready? And that even if it had arrived on time, there's too much cloud cover to conduct any useful flyovers?

    It's not easy. But the unpredictability of the weather is something that every environmental scientist comes to accept. The chaotic nature of the Earth is both incredible and incredibly frustrating, and we experienced the latter during our Operational Readiness Test in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

    Luckily, a coral reef ecosystem takes a long time to change its structure in any significant and visible way. Because of this, we can confidently say that the airplane images (shot 1-2 weeks late) are still correlated with the underwater validation images. In the end, our benthic cover team was able to document almost 20 sites, despite high tradewinds and turbid water!

    It was eye-opening to see just how many moving parts come together to create a good matchup. The science team needs to be on location, the airplane has to be on standby, instruments can't fail, pilots need to have available hours, clouds can't blow in, etc., etc., etc. And this is all for a study conducted right here on our home planet.

    I can't even imagine how NASA deals with outer space.

  • 14 Days and Counting

    Two weeks from today I'll be sleeping in an American Airlines seat destined for Honolulu. (Even with two layovers, American is the only airline that can get you from Bermuda to Hawaii on the same date.) I'll arrive at 10:50pm, pick up a rental car, and start the actual madness of our Operational Readiness Test.

    The ORT is exactly what it sounds like: a test to determine if field operations are running smoothly enough to perform. All three science teams will be on the water in conjunction with flyovers by the Tempus airplane containing PRISM. The focus is to work out any kinks in methodology, but the hope is to collect accurate, usable data on the first try.

    I've been working my butt off the last few months trying to organize documentation and logistics for 15 people across North America to come together and get some gosh darn work done. So let the countdown begin!

  • Kona Post 2: The Work

    I know this post is long overdue... thank you for being patient while I scrambled, prioritized, and totally uprooted my life. Now let's get back to the topic at hand: moray eels!

    Eels are such a regular occurrence in Hawaii that the usual diver reaction is boredom, if not slight annoyance. But to me (being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for Kona water), having an eel curiously tag along on field work is the most exciting part of the day. This guy followed me around for a good 15 meters, diving in and out of the reef and swimming a little too close for comfort. I think I saw a total of 4 eels that day!

    This fine piece of machinery is called a Profiling Reflectance Radiometer (PRR). There are sensors facing out of each end that measure the amount of light in the water column. We'll be deploying it everywhere to amass a gigantic data set about ocean optics.

    The team was lucky enough to hire an incredible boat driver that had pimped his ride perfectly for our style of field work. Seriously - I have never worked on a boat so comfortable or well-formatted. John was hilarious, accomodating, smart, and gave great local food recommendations. (Not to mention that whole bag of homemade breakfast musubis he brought us.)

    Then we discovered reefs have fish. Crazy, right!?

    ...And this is a great shot of when we desperately attempted to dry all of our scuba gear on the hotel balcony less than 24 hours before traveling halfway around the world with crammed, salty luggage. Welcome to airplane life.