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Archived Student Profiles:
NHSGC Supported Fellows and Interns

Meet 2013 NHSGC Fellow Ryan Cassotto

Ryan Cassotto

Ryan Cassotto is a UNH Ph.D. student in Earth Systems Science. He is using ground-based interferometric radar to study the boundary between a tidewater outlet glacier and the ocean in Greenland.

He is studying daily changes in the ice-ocean boundary and how that influences the dynamics of ice and the seasonal flow of the glacier. 

Preliminary results show tidal modulation at the terminus of the glacier.  The ground-based radar has a sampling rate of just a few minutes.  This data can be integrated with satellite observations made several days apart to give a comprehensive picture of glacial dynamics over several time scales. 

This work is relevant to NASA goals including improved understanding of how large ice sheets impact sea level.

Meet 2013 NHSGC Fellow Nicholas Dowhaniuk


Nick Dowhaniuk is a Master's student in Natural Resources.  He is characterizing changes in landcover, land use, landscape pattern, and biomass due to industrial oil development in the Albertine Rift, a biodiversity hotspot in Uganda. 

The two primary questions Nick plans to address are: How has the population grown and where are localized hotspots of population growth since oil development has begun?  What are the landscape impacts from oil development? 

This study is applicable to the NASA Land-Cover/Land-Use Change Program (LCLUC), which seeks to quantify, document, and understand how landcover and land use change by humans affect ecosystems.

Meet 2013 NHSGC Fellow Dara Feddersen

Dara Feddersen

Dara Feddersen is pursuing her Ph.D. in Chemistry at UNH.  Her research focuses on new and improved methods to measure mercury in the atmosphere. 

She has been working with a team to design and test a portable instrument (UNH/UH-Merc) that can obtain measurements of total gaseous mercury and elemental gaseous mercury with one-minute time resolution.  UNH/UH-Merc will be used to conduct ground-based measurements in September 2013 in Houston, as part of the NASA DISCOVER-AQ campaign.

Dara has also been collecting data on gaseous mercury at a local wetland site in Barrington, NH. 

Mercury is bound to organic matter and stored in the peatlands over the winter, then released as land thaws and vegetation grows in the spring.  This process is of particular importance in the Arctic, where melting permafrost is releasing stores of mercury and methane. Understanding the processes that contribute to climate change in Arctic regions is a NASA focus.   

Meet 2013 ECSU Intern Crystal Yelverton


Meet Crystal Yelverton, Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) student and NH Space Grant intern in UNH's Earth Systems Research Center.

Having just completed her ECSU course requirements for a B.S. in Geology, and looking for math and science graduate school opportunities, Crystal was an ideal candidate for a summer internship with Dr. Ruth Varner's study of wetland ecosystem chemistry. Crystal arrived with research experience, having spent the two previous summers as a climate studies intern.

In summer 2011 she was a RESESS intern (Research Experiences in Solid Earth Sciences for Students) in Boulder, Colorado. Her study, Climate Change Affecting Tropical Cyclone Activity, compared 100-year-old data with current data, finding that tropical cyclone activity has been increasing.

In summer 2012 she received a NOAA-based Ernest F. Hollings scholarship for an internship at the Northeast River Forecast Center, a National Weather Service Station in Taunton, Mass. She created an ARC GIS and Google Earth interface for determining high-hazard N.E. dams.

Funded by NH Space Grant Consortium, Crystal's 2013 UNH internship focuses on biogeochemical studies of a wetland ecosystem at a site in Barrington, N.H.—a long-term research site named "Sallies Fen." She is collecting methane and CO2 samples in this temperate peatland, then measuring fluxes and analyzing the data in a Morse Hall laboratory.

As for a future in research, Crystal is definitely interested in climate change, climatology, and possibly meteorology. She loves math and sciences and looks toward the day when she might be an investigator in her own research lab.

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Meet 2012 NHSGC Fellow
Stephanie Coster

Amy Underwood

NHSGC Fellow Stephanie Coster is pursuing a Ph.D. in Natural Resources & Earth Systems Science at the University of NH.

An undergrad degree in biology and a Master's in Wildlife Ecology has brought Stephanie to the field of Molecular Ecology. She uses DNA and genetic markers to answer ecological questions.

Early in her Ph.D. study, she collected DNA samples from two species—the wood frog and the spotted salamander, both prevalent in a central Maine site that her advisor (Kimberly Babbitt) is using for other studies.

She extracted DNA from eggs, located in vernal pools, genotyped the individuals to determine each population's genetic patterns, and then correlated this information to environmental factors. She uses this data to determine the influence of landscape features—roads, forestry, lakes, development, slope and fragmentation—on population connectivity.

With her funding low and data samples collected, the fellowship will help support Stephanie in her 4th and final year of grad studies.

The working title for her dissertation: Landscape Genetics of Pond-Breeding Amphibians in a Managed Forest.

Upon graduation, she hopes to teach and do post-doctoral work in ecology and conservation genetics.

Meet 2012 NHSGC Fellow
Justin Williams

Amy Underwood

NHSGC Fellow Justin Williams is a biological technician with the U.S. Forest Service. He is pursuing a Master's degree in Natural Resources at the University of NH.

Justin's undergraduate degree, also from UNH, is in Environmental Science with a focus on Ecosystems and a minor in Forestry.

His interest in remote sensing of forest ecosystems and forest health led him to this master's program, with Dr. Barry Rock as his advisor.

Justin is studying stress indicators following hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) infestation on eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Analyzing samples with a lab spectrometer, he can measure stress indicators such as low moisture and chlorophyll content, nutrient depletion, and changes in cellular strucure.

With those indicators of healthy vs. infested hemlocks, along with the NDVI biomass index, he hopes to use Landsat satellite data to determine geographic areas affected by the woolly adelgid. At present, his focus is on N.H. and coastal Maine.

With the possiblity of Landsat 8 being launched in late winter and data being available by next summer, Justin might extend his graduate study to include that data. The fellowship from NH Space Grant is helpful in supporting his research, particluarly if the timeframe extends to make use of Landsat 8 data.

To follow progress over the next year, check out Justin's project Twitter account at HWA_DurhamNH.

Meet 2012 NHSGC Fellow
Camden Ertley

camden ertley

Camden Ertley is currently a Physics graduate student at the Univ. of New Hampshire, Camden earned his B.S. in Physics from Univ. of Akron.

After finishing an internship at the Argonne National Lab, Univ. of Chicago, he stayed on as a research asst. in the high energy physics dept.

Camden is pictured above with the GRAPE instrument, a NASA project he's been with from development through launch in 2011. His area of focus is ground control software, which included 28 days in Ft. Sumner, NM, awaiting the GRAPE balloon launch and tracking its flight.

He's currently analyzing GRAPE mission data and preparing his thesis. Over the course of the 26 hour flight, several large solar flares occurred, including two M-class flares during solar observation period. That is now part of his Ph.D. thesis.

The NHSGC Fellowship will offer support in this year of graduate study.

As for the experience of working on a NASA mission— Cameron is now hooked on doing research. After graduation, he hopes to continue with some type of research work.