Eyes in the Sky II Web Course

From the Outside Looking In

NOAA Satellite
SARSAT satellite: Image source: NOAA.
Humans are interacting with the Earth in ways that have alarming and potentially irreversible consequences for Earth's systems. We are depleting natural resources, polluting the land, water, and air, and contributing to the extinction of many other life forms. As an observer on the ground, it is difficult to fully comprehend the complex and dynamic world we live in. However, satellites afford us a unique outside-looking-in perspective of our planet, allowing us to see large-scale features and changes over time. The data from these "eyes-in-the-sky" enable us to examine both global and local environmental problems and consider and develop solutions that can safeguard Earth and its inhabitants.

NASA's Role in Earth Observation

In the United States, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) plays a major role in the study of Earth and its systems. NASA satellites collect and deliver vast quantities of publicly available data about our planet. Geospatial technologies such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), geovisualization tools, the Global Positioning System (GPS), and image analysis provide the tools necessary to explore, model, interact with, and analyze these data to reveal vital information about how and why the global Earth system is changing, how Earth's systems respond to natural and human-based changes, and what consequences these changes may have for human civilization (NASA, Big Questions for Earth).

Eyes in the Sky

Understanding Earth from space, or looking at Earth using an "eyes-in-the-sky" perspective, is an overall theme for this course. We will take two approaches to this theme. One approach is image-based; we will use satellite data and aerial photography to give us a view of Earth from above. The other approach is map-based; we will use maps and GPS technology to connect our views from space to specific locations on Earth.

Many topics in Earth science, environmental science, biology, and chemistry can be investigated using space-based technology. For example,

  • How do forest fires affect developed versus undeveloped land?
  • What changes in regional vegetation might be related to climate change?

Throughout this course and program, try to think of questions that you and your students might want to investigate using an eyes-in-the-sky perspective.

Fishing for Earth Science Data

"Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime."

Two key goals of this course and overall program are for you to:

  1. Be able to locate and access a variety of Earth science datasets for you and your students to investigate.
  2. Become a skilled user of geospatial technologies that enable you to analyze Earth science data. You will want to learn these geospatial applications well enough to use them as research tools yourself and well enough to teach students about their use.

Geospatial Technology Tools

This course engages you with four main geospatial technology tools:

  1. ImageJ (image analysis tool)
  2. Giovanni (remote-sensing data analysis tool)
  3. Arc Explorer Java Edition for Education and/or ArcGIS (geographic information system tool)
  4. Google Earth (geovisualization tool)

Three Four-Week Modules

The Web course is broken up into three four-week modules, each separated by one week:

  1. Module 1: Eyes on Satellite Data (Week 1 to 4)
  2. Module 2: Eyes on Geographic Data (Week 5 to 8)
  3. Module 3: Eyes on Earth (Week 9 to 12)

An optional review plus question and answer session will be held during the weeks between modules.

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