NESEC’s Science Investigations with NASA align authentic science engagement with NASA STEM assets – science, data, and subject matter experts – to stimulate curiosity and inspire scientific inquiry. These opportunities include GLOBE student research and field campaigns related to NASA satellite missions and providing broader connections to NASA science through programs targeting students and youth.

NESEC science investigations support phenomenon-based science teaching practices and align with NASA Earth Science focus areas (Atmospheric Composition, Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems, Climate Variability and Change, Weather and Atmospheric Dynamics) and NASA Applied Science (Health and Air Quality).

Clouds are powerful agents of global change. They affect the overall temperature or energy balance of the Earth and play a large role in controlling the planet’s long-term climate. Scientists need accurate data on clouds to understand their impact over time. NASA and other space agencies have several satellites orbiting the Earth and collecting data about clouds and the Earth’s energy. While these satellites give us a big picture of what’s going on, they only see the top of the clouds. By matching satellite observations with ground observations of clouds using the NASA GLOBE Clouds protocol we get a much more complete picture of clouds in the atmosphere. NASA sends participants a personalized email for with cloud observations matched to satellite data. This unique dataset is also available to all investigators from student to professional scientists.

This field campaign connects citizen scientists of all ages (teachers and students, informal educators, and citizen scientists) to monitor changes in the frequency, range and distribution of potential disease vector mosquitoes by reporting observations using the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper tool. These data augment broad scale satellite-based research with highly targeted local ground-based observations and can be downloaded from the GLOBE database and analyzed to explore a variety of research questions. Regional data campaigns (e.g., GO Oklahoma) are fostered to create strong scientist-volunteer partnerships, which both motivate participants and aim to provide collaborating scientists with data sets of sufficient spatial and temporal density to support research goals.

Land cover is the base dataset for many areas of critical science, including hazard analysis for floods, fires and landslides, mapping wildlife habitat, and tracking the impacts of climate change. Even though land cover is familiar to everyone on the planet, the most detailed satellite-based maps of global land cover are still on the order of hundreds of meters [about 330 feet] per pixel. That means that a park in a city may be too small to show up on the global map. GLOBE Observer: Land Cover can fill in local gaps and contribute to consistent, detailed global maps.

Air quality continues to be an important issue around the world, and investigations with GLOBE air quality data provide opportunities for learners to engage on a topic with global and local impacts. Participating schools can borrow instruments from NASA LaRC and use the GLOBE Aerosols protocol to measure aerosol optical thickness. Learners are also able to engage with and analyze air quality data from various sources to draw conclusions. This campaign provides a unique level of subject matter engagement, which includes active project support and mentoring.

Launched September 15, 2018, in conjunction with NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite launch. This student research campaign focuses on tree height, one of the measurements conducted by the ICESat-2 mission. Tree height is not just a measurement, it is a gateway to understanding many things about the environment. The structure of tree canopies, and the 3D arrangement of individual trees, have a significant effect on how ecosystems function and cycle through carbon, water, and nutrients. Quarterly intensive observation periods (IOPs) related to the trees and land cover measurements are a vital part of the campaign, as they serve as data to be used for GLOBE student research projects and potential professional research.

GLOBE Observer: Eclipse is a temporary tool in the GO app for documenting air temperature and clouds/sky conditions during a total solar eclipse. The tool is not visible in the app on a regular basis but is opened up when a solar eclipse is happening somewhere in the world. Data resulting from eclipse data collection challenges and related publications are on the GLOBE Observer website and can be used in student science investigations.

The ENSO Phase III: Water in Our Environment Student Research Campaign concluded June 2018, but the campaign pages and resources are still available. The campaign focused on student interpretation of data and collaborative sharing with other classrooms, through the lens of NASA-infused questions about water in the Earth system. Each of three investigation areas was focused on a set of complementary GLOBE protocols:

  • What is the quality of water in our environment?
  • What impacts does water, above and below ground, have on our environment?
  • How does water in our environment impact living things?

The NESEC team works with the Girl Scouts through a partnership with SciStarter, including three Girl Scout Projects on SciStarter:

  • Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey: GLOBE Observer Clouds, Trees, Mosquito Habitat Mapper, and Land Cover are curated projects that Girl Scouts can do to complete their Journey.  The GLOBE Observer team created a new Girl Scouts Guide to help troop leaders lead the first two meetings.
  • Girl Scouts Million Trees Promise: GLOBE Observer Trees as one of the SciStarter community projects that scouts can complete for their Girl Scout Tree Promise patch
  • Girl Scouts Climate Challenge: GLOBE Observer Clouds is one of the projects on SciStarter that scouts can complete for their Girl Scout Climate Challenge patch.