Friday, November 28, 2014

URSP Student Rebecca Brenneis Compares Satellite Precipitation Data with Locust Swarm Behavior in Saharan Africa

For my project I compared data from the TRMM Satellite mission with a series of updates produced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organizations on the proliferation of swarms of desert locusts in Saharan Africa.  Desert locusts are often harmless insects but when rain permits they can form large swarms that can devastate agricultural production in the area.  If we can correlate satellite precipitation results with locust swarm behavior we could begin to create an early warning system that would help humans and these insects coexist less destructively. 

My interest in the project grew from a drive to help humans understand the natural world around them and coexist within it sustainably.  I am studying Earth Science and Environmental Engineering so that I can apply scientific and technological know-how to improving the health of our planet.  Pest control is a complex topic that sometimes pits human agricultural goals against the overall health of biodiversity.  Better predictability of overwhelming pest outbreaks could help us to prevent both the loss of agricultural production and the swath of pesticide use that follows a highly migrant swarm of a harmful pest.  The applications of an early warning system could do a lot to bring this human/insect interaction into a greater harmony.

Much of my daily work involves reading very large files of data and turning them into readable useable files that convey usable information to not expert individuals.  It is a very computer intensive process but if connections can be drawn then on the ground fieldwork will stem from it.  Remote sensing for environmental engineering has large-scale potential applications that are just now in their peak of development given the rise of satellite technology in our information age.