DEVELOP at Boston: Recognizing Inaugural Year of Outstanding Success

DEVELOP at Boston: Recognizing Inaugural Year of Outstanding Success

Boston is the host to our most recent addition to the NASA DEVELOP National Program. We are excited to highlight the success of the node as they round out their first full year of operation. Leading the collaboration at Boston is the US Geological Survey’s - Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center and hosted by Boston University's Center for Remote Sensing. The Boston node has successfully completed three projects during three 10-week terms. This effort has enabled the opportunity to build capacity of two end users and 10 unique participants to apply NASA Earth observations for environmental decision making. These statistics reflect a solid foundation, so let’s take a look at how it all started!

The idea of DEVELOP in Boston started with a connection at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. At the time, Dr. Cedric Fichot, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at JPL and DEVELOP science advisor for the Bolsa Chica Ecological Forecasting spring 2016 project, was impressed by the opportunity and experience participants gained through the DEVELOP program and the impact to end users. As Dr. Fichot was preparing to transition from JPL to Boston University, he expressed interest to the DEVELOP program office in bringing this opportunity to the northeast U.S.  Concurrently, the DEVELOP program office was evaluating node distribution and interested in expanding to the northeast U.S. as well.

Shortly after Dr. Fichot settled in at Boston University, he met the incoming class of graduate students. Among them was PhD candidate Julia Marrs. Julia spoke about her previous summer as a DEVELOPer at Goddard Space Flight Center and her project on Puerto Rican agriculture during a graduate talk. Dr. Fichot and Julia instantly connected over their shared experiences with the DEVELOP Program and the interest in creating a node in the northeast grew quickly.

A Strong Start!
Through close collaboration with the DEVELOP Program Office, the node’s lead collaborator USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, Dr. Fichot and Boston University, the Massachusetts – Boston node initiated their first project team during the spring 2018 term. The team was composed of four participants, Zach Bengtsson, Sydney Neugebauer, Bogumila Backiel, and Ruizhe Guo, as well as Center Lead, Kimberly Johnson. The team studied water resources in salt marshes of the Plum Island Estuary. The project partnered with three organizations to assess historic sedimentation along salt marshes in the Plum Island Estuary. These organizations were the USGS - Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, the US Fish and Wildlife Service Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, and the Plum Island Ecosystems Long Term Ecological Research station. After learning the ropes on what would be a challenging term, this team, node leadership, and partners laid the foundation for a successful project and kick-started a promising DEVELOP node.

Where Are They Now?
A year later, the Boston node is thriving and continues to grow with a new team and new leadership. DEVELOP’s model emphasizes the opportunity to build capacity in participants professionally and technically and to assist them in pursuing their career aspirations through short-term 10-week opportunities. So where is inaugural team now?

Center Lead - Kimberly Johnson:
After one term as ‘Acting Center Lead’ with the Boston node, Kim took an opportunity with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation as a GIS Analyst in Seattle. Kim has re-invested in DEVELOP by sharing her experience and advice for current teams as a guest speaker during DEVELOP’s Alumni Brown Bag Series.

Project Lead - Zach Bengtsson:
Zach’s time as project lead encouraged him to apply for the Center Lead role at the Boston node. Today, Zach continues to serve in this role for DVELOP Boston and is more passionate and enthusiastic than ever about the opportunity to assist participants in expanding their professional skills and to work with partner organizations to use NASA Earth observations for environmental issues.

Team Member - Sydney Neugebauer:
Sydney is currently finishing her undergraduate degrees both in Music and Environmental Earth Science from Boston University. Sydney had the opportunity to present the Plum Island Estuary Water Resources project at the 2018 Annual Earth Science Applications Showcase (AESAS) at NASA Headquarters and the 2018 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Annual Meeting in Washington DC.

Team Member - Bogumila Backiel:
Bogumila spent one term with NASA DEVELOP in Boston. She is now working for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Her role allows her to study aboveground biomass in tropical rainforests using data from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Team Member - Ruizhe Guo:
After Ruizhe’s two terms with DEVELOP, she received a position with Apex Systems as a GIS Technician. In this role, she is responsible for data management, validation, and collection of geospatial data for various projects with Apex Systems.

One Small Step
The node is in the midst of their fourth project, conducted by four team members, and partnering with one end user, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. This team will analyze flooding vulnerability in the city of Niagara Falls, New York. The team completes their work in early April.

As we look to the future, the Boston node is well positioned to continue their success. The node seeks to expand their future projects’ application of NASA Earth observations beyond water resources and into areas such as natural disasters, agriculture, and air quality. Thank you to those who have made the Boston node unique and prosperous through your hard work, and for building a strong foundation that has propelled the node forward. Boston, your bright future awaits, we can’t wait to see what you accomplish!

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