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We were lucky to have a NOAA intern, Dakota Smith, spend the summer with our CMMAP internship program. Dakota worked with research scientist Ian Baker studying seasonal variations of water, energy, and carbon fluxes across a moisture gradient.

In an attempt to understand the productive grasslands of West Africa, various techniques are used, including; analysis of eddy covariance data collected by meteorological flux towers and analysis of surface character data collected by satellites. Unfortunately, this area has sparse surface data collection due to political conflicts. Along the same lines, the quality and quantity of satellite observations of surface character data decreases due to prolonged periods of cloud cover during the rainy season. During periods of clear skies, satellite data known as fluorescence can be used as an indicator of the vegetation productivity. Fluorescence is light re-emitted from the chlorophyll within plants. It has been proven that fluorescence yield correlates with photosynthetic yield when plants are exposed to stress.

Due to the overall lack of surface and remotely-sensed data during the wet season, the specific time and reasons grasslands become green and productive is not completely understood. In this project, Dakota used the Simple Biosphere Model (SiB) as an alternative to observe the details of the browning and greening in the African grasslands. In the end, fluorescence data is used as a comparison to SiB.

Dakota is from Eldersburg, Maryland. He is a junior studying meteorology at Penn State. Dakota is interested in atmospheric surface interactions and environmental meteorology. Outside of school, he enjoys fishing, crabbing, hiking, snowboarding and biking and while at CMMAP this summer, he took up disc golf!