Navigating Networks

I began this summer with two goals: learn a coding language and use it to explore satellite data.  The research opportunity I have this summer with the Pittsburgh Water Collaboratory and Community Research Fellowship have been extremely supportive in helping me attain these goals.  In particular, the research done by my advisor, Dr. John Gardner, and his continued guidance have allowed me to gain a deep understanding and familiarity with the data.  Aside from the technicalities of research, I have also been nudged to explore new areas, disregard others, and introduced to individuals far outside of my network.  I have realized that when the internet cannot provide an answer you have to sometimes reach out.   The value of a well-placed email calling for help on a day-consuming hiccup is truly not realized until the solution comes back in less than 15 words.  I hope to learn how to continually grow my network to both provide and receive such appreciated support.

I have noticed that the benefits of collaborating with people within my discipline can feel rehearsed; I am sending a message to someone for a specific issue in an area that I know they are familiar with.  In other words, I know what to ask them because I know in what ways they are able to help me.  My research is nearly all contained within ArcMap and RStudio, so I have become familiar with those who are familiar with these programs.  However, I find that the bigger picture is often displaced in such formal correspondences.  When working with others outside my discipline, I often benefit from conversations of our perspectives on the project.  I recently spoke with Dr. Herman about manifesting community interest in my research with river color.  Although I am focused on color signals due to quality-impacting events, our conversation flowed into engaging the curiosity of the public.  We came up with the idea of checking for color signals outside PNC Park during Pirates games as the Allegheny is often filled with boats then.  While within my discipline there is a payoff in seeking color changes due to quality events, an outside perspective helps explore the creative boundaries of the datas’ capabilities.

Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

My conversation with Dr. Herman and others like it continue to surprise me about the possible questions that could be addressed with my research.  This is why the project has particularly interested me; there are so many ways to explore the data for both the sake of scientific findings and satisfying curiosity.  However, these questions are not always answerable.  I have often seen and wrote of limitations in other works of research.  In the case of my research, there are three potent limitations: resolution, periodicity, and weather.  To look at river color I need to use optical imagery, and much of the time clouds block a good look or, when skies are clear, the signals I am seeking are simply not large enough to be captured by the resolution of the camera.  On top of that, the satellites pass over only once every sixteen days.   In short, the constraints themselves are both interesting and worthwhile to explore the limits of.

The connections I would like to make are those that both cause and come out of academic and professional growth.  For example, the act of seeking a research opportunity this summer introduced me to professors and their research that I otherwise would never have been aware of.  In consideration of my future goals I would like to continue growing my GIS and coding skills by connecting with organizations fielded in their utilization, such as NASA.  I believe that the growth of my abilities has been manifested in the work I have done this summer and will use my final deliverables as a sort of portfolio in order to help me make such connections.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. staciedow says:

    I love how you introduced the conversation with you and Dr. Herman and how that made you think about future questions to ask and how communities might be able to take your research and use it for change!

  2. jacksonfilosa says:

    Awesome work Aaron! I love how you have gone after your initial goals for this summer while allowing flexibility for your project to grow and develop. Can’t wait to see the finished results!

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