Ocean Color Satellites

By Taylor Rouse

My research evaluates the performance of satellite ocean color algorithms for carbon in the Gulf of Maine as part of a larger effort to enhance remote sensing technology. I am specifically checking to see if the data we are receiving from NASA’s Ocean Biology Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) for particulate inorganic carbon is correct by matching it to field data collected on the Gulf of Maine North Atlantic Time Series (GNATS) since 1998.

I feel my project is important because many communities rely on sustainable coastal ecosystems to support fisheries and aquaculture. Monitoring the changes in carbon will help scientists and the general public understand the effects of its anthropogenic increase on marine ecosystems as well as the ecological and social impacts.

Working alongside Dr. Catherine Mitchell has shown me that I can use my different strengths to succeed in this field. As a satellite oceanographer she uses the intersection between computer science, physics, and marine biology to her advantage and I hope to do the same. Her research focuses on understanding the changes in ocean color as they are driven by microscopic particles and dissolved materials present in the water column. As climate change continues, her work to quantify and predict the drivers of coastal carbon exchange will expand the understanding of impacts on ecosystems that are dependent upon this production.

Although most of my time has been spent at my computer in my small hometown of Okoboji, Iowa, I still feel a big connection to Bigelow Laboratory and those who have interacted with us REUs throughout this process. Also, the connections I have made with the other student are genuine even across the country as we have had the chance to interact with each other’s work and share many of the same passions. My experience has opened my eyes to the amount of work and initiative that goes into scientific research, and it has reassured me that pursuing a career in marine research is one of my top priorities. I’m not lying when I say that I felt very intimidated and nervous about being chosen to work with this program but since our first Zoom meeting, I have felt welcome and learned so much valuable information.

Looking forward, my experience with Bigelow’s REU program will give me connections to hardworking and passionate people as well as the confidence I need in my research to succeed in the science world. I have realized over these few weeks that I enjoy using data science in research more than I would have guessed. There is a great community of scientists that rely heavily on those who can analyze data thoroughly. I find it exciting when I finally figure out a problem and see the results of a beautifully made figure, which has been easy as the satellite images are incredibly interesting. I hope to bring this excitement into my future work as I look ahead to graduate school and a career researching marine systems.

Taylor Rouse is an Iowa State University student in Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Science’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program. This intensive experience provides an immersion in ocean research with an emphasis on state-of-the-art methods and technologies.

Ocean Color Satellites