Campus News

UGA, NASA to partner on Earth science program

Beginning this summer, the geography department will partner with NASA through DEVELOP, a national student internship program created to enhance training and development in Earth science. The UGA collaboration is only the second housed strictly at a university in the U.S.

Initial UGA projects include analyzing the marshes of coastal Georgia, examining the correlations between public health and air quality in Washington County, determining the effects of ozone on hemlock conifers in the Great Smoky Mountains and assessing forest connectivity in Costa Rica.

“The DEVELOP Program gives the university a unique opportunity to engage further with NASA, attract and train a new cohort of student-scientists and extend our results to local communities,” said Thomas Mote, professor and head of the geography department, housed in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “The program is geared toward the use of NASA tools and resources to address local issues, and we’re proud that geography has played the lead role in bringing the DEVELOP Program to the university.”

The program is open to any student at UGA.

DEVELOP is headquartered at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia and currently partners with 15 institutions around the world, most of which are closely associated with NASA centers. The program began in 1998 when the Digital Earth Initiative, a federal interagency project dedicated to increasing human understanding of the planet, launched an effort to increase public access to federal information about the Earth and the environment. DEVELOP projects are designed to expand the use of NASA satellite data to affect policymaking and benefit its partner institutions.

“When you’re surrounded by people who are passionate about DEVELOP, it’s an inspiring environment in which to be involved,” said Steve Padgett-Vasquez, a doctoral student in the integrative conservation and geography program.
Padgett-Vasquez came to UGA in 2012 after working at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where he served as center lead for DEVELOP. He now will serve as center lead for the program at UGA-coordinating faculty, students and the program-and as liaison with the DEVELOP Program office in Langley.

Currently involved labs at UGA and their faculty directors are: the Center for Geospatial Research, directed by Marguerite Madden; the Atmospheric Sciences Program, directed by Marshall Shepherd; the remote sensing and spectroscopy lab, under Deepak Mishra; and the spatial ecology analysis lab, led by Nathan Nibbelink in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.