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Week 4 Newsletter: June 25-29, 2018

RECCS is a 9-week summer student research program for Colorado community college students funded by the National Science Foundation and coordinated by CIRES Education Outreach and the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory.

For recent RECCS happenings, check out the RECCS blog.

RECCS Student Researcher Spotlight

This week our featured RECCS student researcher is Jessica Ghent. She is mentored by Katy Barnhart and Greg Tucker of the Department of Geological Sciences at CU.
Jessica Ghent

Research Project:  The impact of ground control points on drone-based Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry at the Chalk Cliffs, Colorado, debris flow site. 

Originally from Florida, Jessica grew up in western Michigan, moved to California, and has been a Colorado resident for 3 years. Her greatest passions (outside of geology) include singing, hiking, and traveling. Her recent adventures include visiting Iceland, Mexico, England, Costa Rica, Belgium, and Franceand she hopes to travel to Chile later this year! 

Jessica is a geology major at Front Range Community College-Westminster and is approaching the completion of her associate's degree. She plans to transfer to the University of Colorado Boulder to complete a bachelor's degree in geophysics and would like to pursue a PhD in volcanology immediately following her undergraduate studies. Jessica's career goals include working for the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program; she is particularly interested in volcanic hazards and geodetic monitoring of ground deformation. Jessica's RECCS project involves using unmanned aircraft system (UAS) technology for Structure from Motion photogrammetry to construct digital elevation models of the Chalk Cliffs debris flow site near Buena Vista, CO.

Warning—Debris Flow on its Way

Jessica Ghent and her mentors, Katy Barnhart and Greg Tucker (above), are enjoying their first trip out to the Mt. Princeton Chalk Cliffs debris flow site near Buena Vista, Colorado.

Debris flows are fast-moving, water-laden masses of rock that can destroy homes and towns in minutes. Here is a video from USGS showing the movement of the Chalk Cliffs debris flow site. Studying the changing topography of flow sites at Chalk Cliffs, the most active debris flow site in Colorado, will help improve debris flow warning systems. Jessica and her mentors will be flying drones over the cliffs to collect images which Jessica will then use to create 3D digital elevation models. Her goal is to determine how the number and dispersion of ground control points impact the topographical accuracy of drone-based photogrammetry.
Jessica's mentor, Katy Barnhart (along with USGS employees), has placed 15 ground control points in the Chalk Cliffs debris flow site, as shown on the Google Earth image above. These ground control points have known GPS coordinates that improve the accuracy of the digital elevation models and aid in photogrammetry. Photogrammetry creates 3D images from 2D images derived from a moving sensor. Jessica goes through the all of the photos from the drone individually and places a pin at the location of the ground control point using the photogrammetry software called Agisoft.
The image on the left is a picture of a physical ground control point. Jessica's main research goal is to determine the most efficient way to maximize the model’s accuracy while minimizing the amount of ground control points. To accomplish this, she uses the Agisoft photogrammetry software to determine a numerical value of the accuracy of the model in comparison to the actual topography.

This accuracy value allows Jessica to determine if, for example, it is possible to obtain the same amount of accuracy using three ground control sites compared to six ground control sites. Minimizing the amount of ground control points, especially on difficult terrain, will help save future work effort and enhance safety for other researchers.

CU Panel Brown Bag Session

A panel from CU Boulder (image below)comprised of Janet Yowell of Creating Academic Pathways in STEM, Karen Diawara and Jennifer Long of the Office of Admissions, and Mari Foisy of the Office of Financial Aidprovided practical insight for the RECCS cohort on transferring from a 2-year community college to a 4-year institution like the University of Colorado Boulder. The specialists fielded a range of questions from the students to help them navigate transferring credits to an undergraduate degree program, accessing financial aid options, and getting academic support as non-traditional students.

Communication Workshop Update

The students received group and individual feedback on their project titles and research questions. Great job on these! The students then reviewed with a partner their two key papers relevant to their research project. The students learned how to cite correctly, how to use references in the different sections of a paper and poster, and how to read a scientific paper. They also learned about how to avoid plagiarism in their own work and were introduced to additional online resources for publications.

The students also discussed the key pieces of the introduction to their research that they will use in their poster and oral presentations. Students were asked to critique a sample introduction. They then listened to Neesha Schnepf, a CU Geology PhD student, give an oral presentation and discussed her introduction.

Student Tips

  • Be safe! Ensure that you are not conducting field work alone. Arrange a phone check-in with your mentor(s) at the end of the day if you are doing solo field work.
  • Connect with other student researchers for support and to broaden your REU experience.

Student Deadlines

  • Craft an introduction for research poster and presentation.
  • Practice white board speech for next workshop (7/11).
  • NO science communication workshop on July 4th!
  • Create and add to a draft of your References section as you go.

Mentor Tips

  • As mentees start to write up their research, it may also be helpful to discuss what to include in their introduction and strategies for presenting their findings.
  • Provide continuous feedback to mentee, including gentle guidance but also let them think for themselves.
  • Check in often: dropping by or wandering by is helpful. More frequent discussions can help your mentee both explore possibilities and stay on track. Keep in regular contact.
Copyright © 2018 CIRES Education Outreach, All rights reserved.

RECCS is funded by the National Science Foundation Grant Award Number 1461281

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