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Talking to Scientists about Trees and Land Cover Research, Technology, and Citizen Science for Understanding our Planet

Image representation of the following quote from Doctor Bruce Cook\3A It\'s really not about putting the parts together. It\'s coming up with the good ideas. I\'ve seen a lot of people get enamored about the technology, but it\'s really being able to answer the questions about so what, and why should anyone care.


Scientists are always thinking about research and how the combination of past and present research and technology allows us to learn exponentially about our home planet. Through space and ground based sciences, we can continue to expand our knowledge for the future of science research and technology, particularly focusing on applications in the real world.


NASA satellites help scientists study all kinds of amazing things, by collecting data from Earth's clouds, oceans, water, landforms, land cover, trees, vegetation, and air. They can even observe wildfires, volcanoes and smoke. All this information helps scientists predict weather and climate. Scientists from around the world see the importance of citizen science programs, such as The GLOBE Program. And with the GLOBE Observer app, citizen scientists can contribute important data and information used in research and study.

As part of the Trees Around the GLOBE Student Research Campaign, I have interviewed several scientists. Recently, I spoke with Dr. Bruce Cook, Research Scientist and Project Scientist for the Landsat Next Mission at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland USA, and Dr. Sorin Popescu, Research Scientist, Professor, and ICESat-2 Mission Principal Investigator at the Texas A&M University Department of Ecology & Conservation Biology, in College Station, Texas USA. The interviews focused on research vision, research questions, and how the planning of research sets the baseline for developing a research project. The main goal of the interviews was for GLOBE students (from the six GLOBE regions) to gain the perspective from professional research scientists. This way when students begin the process of thinking about innovative science missions and the use of the data for their trees, forests, land cover, and carbon cycle student research projects, they can refer to the experience and suggestions of professional researchers. Students were asked to come up with important research questions to implement in their research, investigating observations and measurements needed to answer vital questions about our evolving planet. The scientists, in the interviews, were made aware of the GLOBE tree height, land cover, greenings, and carbon cycle measurement protocols, especially the use of the GLOBE Observer Tree Height and Land Cover Tools.

Further, the information in the interviews below not only benefits student researchers, but can also benefit citizen scientists and anyone interested in the reasons why NASA creates technologically-advanced missions that build on past missions, and why each and every data observation is vital. You can click on the two scientist images below to see each of the interviews.


Two men with glasses and headphones ride in the back of a small plane while monitoring an array of computer displays.
Dr. Bruce Cook (left) onboard NASA aircraft, monitoring and mapping the composition of forested landscapes. Click on the picture above to access the interview or click directly on this link:




Four researchers in a forest surrounded by a collection of research equipment including a scanner on a tripod and a backpack antenna. One crouches near a rugged storage container and interacts with a laptop.
Dr. Sorin Popescu (far right) in the field, taking measurements of trees, vegetation, and land cover with Texas A&M University students. Click on the picture above to access the interview or click directly on this link:





Image representation of the following quote from Doctor Sorin Popescu\3A Given all the importance of open science these days, citizen science projects, such as GLOBE, I say get involved, and build your own contribution. It is maybe a small contribution, but scaling it up does matter in advancing science and observations.




I would like to thank both Dr. Bruce Cook and Dr. Sorin Popescu for taking the time to discuss the research process, the Landsat Next and ICESat-2 missions, and the value of ground-based and space-based data to advance our real-world knowledge of our ever-changing planet.


Learn more about the missions at the links provided below:

Join Dr. Cook and Dr Popescu on 25 June for an informal conversation about this blog on 25 June 2024. Learn more and register. 

About the Author:


Brian Campbell (NASA Wallops/GST, Inc.) is a NASA Senior Earth Science Specialist and Subject Matter Expert at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, USA. Brian is also the Trees Around the GLOBE Student Research Campaign Lead and the Trees Science Lead for The GLOBE Program’s GLOBE Observer citizen science program and serves as the NASA Wallops Flight Facility Earth Science Liaison. Brian, in his 24th year at NASA, works with local to international students, educators, citizen scientists, and researchers in over 120 countries.


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A graphic showing silhouettes of two people taking observations with their phones. They are standing between water with mosquito larvae in it, grass, trees, and clouds, which represent the tools within the GLOBE Observer app.

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