Summer Time Adventures

Dear Dialog,

Summer is in full swing and it has been a good opportunity to look at work-life balance. Lately, I have been going through the CanMoon lunar analogue mission funded by the CSA, vacationed at Prince Edward Island, submitted HiRISE WannaHaves, dove deep into birding, completed the Lunar Geology short course taught here at Western, received news about the Barringer Grant, visited Michigan numerous times and started a little garden!

The CanMoon mission has been quite a learning experience. The mission itself is a simulated lunar sample return mission. It is a mock exploration mission that seeks to train and familiarize those, mostly students, with the inner workings of mission planning and in-situ science targeting. The mission is stationed between two sites. The rover is actually a collection of people who will be at two specific locations on Lanzarote and will function as the rover’s instruments and movement. The low-vegetation areas on Lanzarote are good analogues for the Moon because of the fresh flows of lava. We see that on the surface of the Moon a lot of the flows have been well-preserved because of the lack of atmosphere and erosional processes. Going to Lanzarote offers a unique opportunity to run a mission with somewhat lunar-like conditions. The data collected by the rover team will be sent back directly ( with a 1.28 second delay, which is equivalent to the time delay between the Earth and the Moon) to UWO, where the rest of the crew is stationed. There are two general teams here: Planning and Science/Interpretation. The Planning team analyzes the viable options for data collection, traverse, and communications. The Science/Interpretation team figures out where the most useful sites are, what data to collect, and how to interpret relevant in-situ data. My official mission role is “Imaging and Remote Sensing Interpretation” where I help interpret data as it comes in. However, I also held a pre-mission role where I, along with a few peers, made up a GIS remote sensing team. We produced data products that showed the spectra and abundances of minerals such as basalt, pyroxene, ferrous iron. We also created a slope map, a hillshade map, an elevation map, and an NDVI map to show where there is vegetation.We worked mostly under Livio’s tutelage and learned how to use ENVI for measuring spectra.

Cass explains how commands are sent to our simulated rover for CanMoon.

Cass explains how commands are sent to our simulated rover for CanMoon.

Before this mission I thought I knew a decent amount about remote sensing but going through this exercise has shown I was rather mistaken. There is tons to know about remote sensing and how to interpret the data! For now, we are in the phase of thinking about conducting a dry run within the next week just make sure everything is working and folks are up to speed. Here is a photo of one of the workshops that recently took place where we were conducting a “dry dry run“ trying to familiarize ourselves with the process.

Last month, I vacationed to Prince Edward Island! It was a ton of fun and I learned that PEI exports tons of potatoes! It’s a little ridiculous. The cottage we rented was literally a stone’s throw away from a potato farm. This was also an excellent opportunity to go birding! I saw some lifers there: Double-Crested Cormorants, Bald Eagles and even an American Redstart. Also, my family and I decided to tour PEI through their breweries. There were about 9 or so total on the island and we went to about 7 of them. Definitely an unusual choice for how to visit a new place!

Outcrops on PEI. Red Sandstone contributes to red sand beaches

Outcrops on PEI. Red Sandstone contributes to red sand beaches

Birding with the parents on PEI. Actively looking for an American Redstart here.

Birding with the parents on PEI. Actively looking for an American Redstart here.

In other birding news, I have been having a blast going around campus, to local parks, and into Michigan to find all sorts of birds! Here are a few of the birds I have seen in the six months or so. I have also recently started watching live cam feeds of birds in the New York area through Cornell Labs. They also offer feeds of hawks and ospreys! When it comes to birding outdoors, I prefer to use the Audubon Birds of North America app that gives you options about how to find a bird that you may not recognized and it allows you to track the birds you have ID’d along with their location and time of year. It has been a fun way to socialize with others, an opportunity to get outside, a satisfying challenge to find and ID a bird and a good way to connect with nature and the seasons. Soon I will be making a trip to Toronto and possibly New York to go on a bird walk with like-minded folks at the Feminist Bird Club. This will be my first formal bird walk so I am excited to see how other people go birding.

Hermit Thrush breezing through MI in Spring 2019

Hermit Thrush breezing through MI in Spring 2019

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk in London, ON in July 2019

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk in London, ON in July 2019

At the end of May, Dr. Oz hosted the Lunar Short Course and it played directly into what CanMoon seeks out to investigate and it provided much needed context about the Moon itself. The first day we learned about the Apollo mission and watched astronauts videos for the first half of the morning. We learned about many topics including: mineral composition (such as the KREEP and ilmenite layers), interior composition (mafic materials like olivine and pyroxene), mare distribution (more on the nearside), lunar and Earth-based volcanism, and layers of melt within craters. The melt lecture included looking at samples and it was very elucidating towards where certain types of melt exist within relation to each other. Some of the class assignments included presenting on a lunar mission (I chose GRAIL) and creating a mock lunar mission with PHASR HERACLES mission goals in mind. We also had to create a 20-30 page paper on the mock mission. This went well and since it was a group project, we chose to visit Zeeman crater in SPA Basin to investigate the possible mantle material indicated by measured olivine signatures in the central peak. Overall, I really enjoyed this course and learned a lot. The short timespan of the course was also nice because I was able to focus on it for that week and then it was over.

I recently received news from the Barringer Grant that I applied for a few months ago. They said I was not selected for receiving the grant. Oh well. The silver lining is it was a good exercise to write a grant proposal, which I posted about in April, and to network with people to acquire letters of recommendation.

And finally, the local biology department had a plant sale during the early months of spring. At a price of $1 or $2 the young plants were practically a steal and I had to buy multiple! I decided to purchase a few pepper plants, kale, basil, and a few others. Here is everything I bought and how well it is growing nowadays! I hope the harvest will be bountiful and worth the effort I have been putting into it.

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-W