Boise State has formed a partnership with NASA as part of a data-gathering exercise for testing a satellite-mounted instrument designed to measure soil moisture from Earth orbit or on the surface of other planets.
Members of Boise State's geoscience faculty and graduate students have been working with the Jet Propulsion Laboratories at NASA o test the instrument (called the Passive and Active L-and S-band sensor or PALS) at the Dry Creek Experimental Watershed area north of Boise. The instrument is similar to the one that NASA will launch aboard a satellite in 2014 that will improve data for applications such as weather forecasting, flood forecasting and military logistics.
“It is quite an honor to be included in this project,” said Lejo Flores, an assistant professor in Boise State’s Department of Geosciences and lead researcher on the project. Flores is working with graduate students Mel Kunkel, Ricci Loughridge, Mike Poulos and Reggie Walters and undergraduate student Paige LaPorte. “This program provides a great opportunity for our graduate students to be part of a cutting-edge endeavor and will create deeper ties between Boise State researchers and NASA.”
Boise State’s Dry Creek Experimental Watershed will join the Agricultural Research Service’s Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed in Owyhee County for the project. As NASA JPL aircraft flies over the watersheds, researchers will provide soil moisture data and other statistics to develop and test the on-board instrument's ability to determine ground conditions from high altitude.
Flores thinks the program will lead to other opportunities for him and the group to work with NASA in the future.
“This data also will be of immense help for us in submitting proposals to NASA,” Flores said. “There are some really unique opportunities that this data provides us, and many of these opportunities will resonate with NASA program officers and hopefully will result in some new grants coming to Boise State