Nicole Rodriguez - Forest Canopy Lab  

University of Texas, Austin, TX




The hypothesis of my project, formulated by my P.I. Jess Parker, is the forest canopy light reflectance is inversely related to the bumpiness of the forest canopy, so as rugosity (bumpiness) increases albedo (light reflectance) decreases.

So this project may sound like boondoggling work, but we did get results on SERC's surrounding forest canopy to correlate with the hypothesis. I used a predesigned helium balloon (1.5kg) as a means of sending up two small light sensors to record the incoming light and the canopy reflected light. This was done by lifting up the balloon through a canopy opening early in the morning shortly after the sun rose and allowing it to sit above the canopy until solar noon if the wind and weather remained mild.

The difficulties of my project came when my P.I. left once for a 4 week long vacation and another time for 10 days on work related business. My project is new to the lab so there weren't too many people to mentor or aid me with the on goings of my project.

I saw myself mostly indoors this summer since the weather was mostly partly sunny and rainy, which are not conditions for sending up a balloon. I would have preferred having another smaller project along with the balloon project, however I had the opportunity to help out with other canopy related projects that were outdoors.

Overall, this has been THE best internship and the best summer I've had in a while. After I graduate from University of Texas I plan to take off a few years for around the world travels and working odd random jobs or finding something related to natural resource management and GIS. Once I figure out where my career focus is I will look into furthering my education.  

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