UMF Professor Andrew Barton awarded $300,000 NASA grant to use International Space Station instrument to help predict wildfire effects

posted in: News | 0

FARMINGTON, ME  (March 9, 2020)—Andrew Barton, University of Maine at Farmington professor of biology, has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to explore whether the ECOSTRESS instrument on the International Space Station can help predict wildfire effects on forests in southwestern United States.

Andrew Barton, University of Maine at Farmington professor of biology“Wildfires are becoming a major problem in many parts of the world, including the Southwest.  Our goal is to better understand the impacts of this environment change on forests.  There’s every reason to think that NASA’s ECOSTRESS instrument will be a powerful new way for scientists to study these and many other important environmental stresses caused by climate change,” said Barton, University of Maine at Farmington professor of biology.


Because of climate change and a century of fire suppression, wildfires have become larger and more intense across most of the West.  Barton and Helen Poulos, in the College of the Environment at Wesleyan University, will co-lead a team of five researchers whose three-year goal is to explore the impacts of this shift in fire on forest stress and recovery in the mountains of southern Arizona.

Barton and his team were one of only 14 out of 73 applicants to receive the NASA funding and the first ever application of ECOSTRESS for wildfire-related research.

The NASA-funded research will be conducted using imagery gathered by the ECOSTRESS (ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station) radiometer. It is a remote sensing instrument that can measure the temperature of plants to estimate stress to a highly accurate degree and throughout the day.

ECOSTRESS instrument on the International Space StationUMF Professor of Biology Andrew Barton’s NASA-funded research will be conducted using imagery gathered by the ECOSTRESS (ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station) radiometer on the International Space Station.


The project will investigate the effects of the 2011 Horseshoe Two Fire on post-fire tree and site water balance and evaluate the potential of using data gathered from the ECOSTRESS sensor to predict the recovery of forests after wildfire.  An important part of the research is to test the potential of the ECOSTRESS instrument for many applications, ranging from the efficient design of cities to reduce heat stress to improving irrigation for crops to better understanding the interaction of the atmosphere and ecosystems in a warming world.

Barton remarked that, “Wildfires are becoming a major problem in many parts of the world, including the Southwest.  Our goal is to better understand the impacts of this environment change on forests.  There’s every reason to think that NASA’s ECOSTRESS instrument will be a powerful new way for scientists to study these and many other important environmental stresses caused by climate change.”

During the first year of the NASA-funded research, Barton and his team will be attaching equipment to plants in the Arizona Sky Island Pine-Oak forest to measure water movement.  These measurements will reveal daily and seasonal patterns of plant function and stress, as well as verify the data coming from ECOSTRESS instrument.

UMF students will have the opportunity to be involved as research assistants during the second and third years of the project.

Researchers from Northern Arizona University (Dr. George Koch, Dr. Thomas Kolb, and Dr. Andrea Thode) will also be working with Barton and Poulos on the project.

# # #

EDITOR’S NOTE:
Link to image on WordPress: https://www.umf.maine.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1/2020/03/RP190-047.jpg
Photo Caption: “Wildfires are becoming a major problem in many parts of the world, including the Southwest.  Our goal is to better understand the impacts of this environment change on forests.  There’s every reason to think that NASA’s ECOSTRESS instrument will be a powerful new way for scientists to study these and many other important environmental stresses caused by climate change,” said Barton, University of Maine at Farmington professor of biology.
Photo Credit: UMF Image

Link to image on WordPress: https://www.umf.maine.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1/2020/03/RP190-047A.jpg
Photo Caption: UMF Professor of Biology Andrew Barton’s NASA-funded research will be conducted using imagery gathered by the ECOSTRESS (ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station) radiometer on the International Space Station.
Photo Credit: NASA

April Mulherin
UMF Associate Director for Media Relations
office: 207-778-7081
cell: 207-491-0064
april.mulherin@maine.edu

Share on