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Using Code to Detect Color: Guest Scientist Blog by Pratham B., 2020 NASA SEES Intern

Through the SEES Mosquito Mappers internship, I have learned how to skeptically interrogate the world around us and devise profound questions that can shape our understanding of the natural universe. I came to this internship knowing very little about science except for  the basics of the scientific method and the “facts” that we are mandated to memorize in our educational system. I started by doing engaging activities and watching webinars hosted by NASA scientists. I supplemented the knowledge that I gained with educational SEES modules on topics from “Climate Science Background” to “Exploring Earth” and from “Space Exploration, Science, and Engineering” to “Mars and Beyond.” Later, I did interesting activities incorporating Python programming and astronomy.  By doing these activities, I solidified my understanding about the methods and tools of science that can be used to conduct good research.

Now I am coalescing these skills to do my own research project on mosquito habitats and using mathematical methods to derive an equation that would best predict when the next mosquito borne outbreak could happen in a specific region. This incorporates elements of statistics, multivariable calculus, differential equations, computer Science, GIS mapping technology, and in-situ naked eye land cover observations.

With one week into the project, my team and I have been feverishly working to put our project into action. So far, we have created a code that can be used to detect the “average color” of a mosquito habitat from land cover observations. Our code outputs a representation of color in the form of a 3D RGB vector. We can use this model to help determine when and where mosquito borne outbreaks are likely to occur- using GLOBE Observer Land Cover data, in a similar fashion that scientists find water bodies in satellite data. Now we are compiling data, such as climate, temperature, and height above sea level, to determine mosquito borne infection rates in various different regions across the globe. 

 I see science as a way of drawing a fine line between all that is known and unknown, and as a way for us to spend pursuit in asking deeper and more philosophical questions about our universe. I’ve personally learned a lot from this internship, and I hope to take the skills I have learned from this to become a better scientist that can add to the benefit of our world!

Pratham B. is a high school student from Texas who is working on a research project this summer using the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper and Land Cover tools. His virtual internship is part of a collaboration between The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES)  and the NASA  Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) to extend the TSGC Summer Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) internship for U.S. high school (http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/sees-internship/). He shares his experience in this guest blog post.

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