From the Director
EOS Graduate Research Scholars
Harlan Spence
Harlan Spence

The Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space is a vibrant academic unit on campus and, unlike our college partners who focus on delivering undergraduate education, our prime mission is scholarly research, which in turn promotes and provides remarkable opportunities for graduate students across a broad spectrum of disciplines. 

External research at UNH represents approximately one-third of all funding that fuels the university, and EOS contributes significantly toward that percentage, supporting a robust cohort of graduate students who earn their degrees in physics, Earth sciences, natural resources and the environment, etcetera.

In this issue of Spheres, we do something a little different and highlight graduate research within our Earth Systems Research Center by featuring the careers of four young professionals—from master’s to postdoc. It is a small, focused sampling that represents well the many graduate scholars within EOS who contribute similarly across solar and space science as well as marine science and ocean engineering.

Original, independent research undergirds every graduate student's experience and, at EOS, it is the highly competitive external awards secured by our faculty and staff that fuel these experiences. The students, in turn, often provide the innovation and hard intellectual work needed to convert an interesting idea into a great scientific result and, more often than not, an important scientific discovery.

Every day and in every way our students bring scientific light to the otherwise dark mysteries of the world in which we live. As you read these stories, another theme emerges, namely, the way by which our students extend these discoveries to provide broader impact. Not only do they expand our fundamental knowledge about the complex Earth system but invariably these results add value in many ways beyond this noble cause—they inform policy makers, improve our lives, and educate and inspire both experts and lay people.
– Harlan Spence

Welcome to
Spheres Online

the University of New Hampshire Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space electronic newsletter.

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Spheres Archives

Fall 2014
In this Issue of Spheres

A River Runs Through It

Pinpointing a Pint-sized Pest From On High

Have Funding, Will Travel

Carbon Bomb with a Long Fuse

News and Notes
Faculty, Staff, and Student News
From the Director

Institute for the Study of Earth,
Oceans, and Space
EOS Director: Harlan Spence
EOS Dir. of Finance & Admin.:
   Jo Beth Dudley

Editor: David Sims
Designer: Kristi Donahue
Circulation: Laurie Pinciak

Morse Hall, 8 College Road,
Durham, NH 03824












Spring 2014

Faculty, Staff, and Student News
Space Science Center

Program manager John Macri reports that the Pre-Ship Review for the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission took place at the end of October at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and a NASA review panel gave the thumbs up to ship the four MMS observatories to Cape Canaveral, Florida to begin preparations for the March 2015 launch. The MMS mission is comprised of four identically instrumented spacecraft that will use Earth's magnetosphere as a laboratory to study the microphysics of three fundamental plasma processes—magnetic reconnection, energetic particle acceleration, and turbulence. Since 2005, UNH has been leading an international team of seven institutions in the construction of a key instrument suite for the mission. An animation of the MMS launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and deployment in space can be viewed here.
Video credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab.

Joseph Dwyer

Joseph Dwyer arrived in late August from the Florida Institute of Technology to become the Peter T. Paul Chair in Space Sciences within EOS and the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. Dwyer's primary research is focused on understanding the underlying physics of lightning discharges, which occur about four million times per day. Lightning strikes cause more deaths and injuries in the U.S. than either hurricanes or tornados. And Dwyer recently received the 2014 Karl Berger Award for distinguished achievements in the science and engineering of lightning research, developing new fields in theory and practice, modeling and measurements. The award is given every two years at the International Conference on Lightning Protection. Look for a feature story on Dwyer and his research in an upcoming issue of Spheres Online.

In early October, EOS director Harlan Spence and NH Space Grant Consortium director Toni Galvin took part in the Portsmouth Science Café's discussion on “Space weather: Radiation with a chance of solar flares” at the Portsmouth Brewery. The two astrophysicists shared their expertise with the audience and fielded questions about phenomena that can create aurora and disrupt satellites. Says Spence, “People invariably revel in and thirst for that firsthand contact with scientific discovery and exploration, and the café' venue facilitated an engaging discussion of space weather with a range of citizen scientists." Notes Galvin, "The scope of knowledge, as well as the interest exhibited by the audience was impressive and gratifying. Their questions showed that they understood how space weather affects their daily lives and I was particularly pleased to see high school teachers in the audience."

Peter Bloser had two proposals selected for funding that will start early next year. One is from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, part of the Department of Defense, for a "Field Deployable Neutron Camera for Special Nuclear Materials." It will be an instrument development effort for a portable imaging system for fast neutrons and builds off of Jim Ryan's Portable Neutron Spectroscope, or NSPECT, project but uses more robust, portable detector technology. The project includes Jason Legere, Ryan, Mark McConnell, Sonya Smith, and Chris Bancroft.

Bloser’s second award is from NASA for “A Balloon-Borne, Advanced Scintillator Compton Telescope with Silicon Photomultiplier Readout.” The project will fly a new gamma-ray instrument, the Advanced Scintillator Compton Telescope, or ASCOT, on a scientific balloon flight about two years from now. The project includes McConnell, Ryan, Legere, and a host of SSC engineers and students.  

Jichun Zhang was promoted to research assistant professor. Zhang, along with his graduate student Anthony Saikin and several SSC colleagues, published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters titled “Excitation of EMIC waves detected by the Van Allen Probes on 28 April 2013.”

Cristian Ferradas

Ph.D. students Jason Shuster and Cristian Ferradas received prizes for their poster presentations at the annual Geospace Environment Modeling summer workshop in Portsmouth, Virginia this past June. Shuster won top prize for work targeting questions on the most fundamental aspects of magnetic reconnection and enabled by state-of-the-art supercomputer simulations performed in collaboration with the Los Alamos National Laboratory. His research helps to prepare for NASA's upcoming MMS mission. His advisors are Roy Torbert and Li-Jen Chen, the latter who is now at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Ferradas was awarded second prize for his poster titled “Heavy ion dominance near Cluster perigees.” Measuring the ion composition of space plasmas is a key step towards understanding where the different ion species come from and how they are energized, transported and lost in the Earth’s magnetosphere. The poster presentation reports for the first time a statistical study of over ten years of observations of heavy ion dominance made by the Cluster mission in the inner region of the Earth’s magnetosphere. Ferradas’ advisor is Jichun Zhang.

project smart
Project SMART

Twelve high school students completed the space physics component of the Project SMART program this past summer, reports faculty advisor Charles Smith. In addition to performing seven research projects with faculty, the students learned basic circuitry for building small payload experiments, built five new compact instruments, and successfully launched a weather balloon to 100,000 feet. One instrument, a multi-spectrum analyzer prototype, is under continued development for future flights. “As in the past,” Smith says, “EOS provided considerable funding from its own resources to make this program happen, and we hope to see some of these excellent students return as undergraduates in the future.”


Eberhard Möbius reports that the IBEX Science Working Team Meeting hosted at UNH took place July 14-17 in DeMeritt Hall. The Interstellar Boundary Explorer was launched October 19, 2008 and carries two ultra-high sensitivity cameras containing important components designed and built at UNH. The cameras have helped map the edge of our solar system for the first time and are sampling the interstellar wind that blows through our solar system. Notes Möbius, “We are hoping to have many more years conducting science in concert with the two Voyager spacecraft that are venturing the heliospheric boundary at distance of 130 and 160 astronomical units, respectively, right now.” One astronomical unit is equivalent to 150 million kilometers (93 million miles).

Jun Hong Chen, a Ph.D. student of Möbius, recently published his second first-author paper on pickup ions from the interstellar medium in the Journal of Geophysical Research and has submitted a third. His work concerns interstellar gas atoms that flow through our solar system and are turned into “pickup ions” that are created when the sun's ultraviolet radiation or the solar wind strips them of an electron. The solar wind and the embedded magnetic field picks them up and sweeps them out of the solar system.

SSC and department of physics alumna Sandy Fletcher ‘95G was a guest speaker at the New England Fall Astronomy Festival held in mid-October. Fletcher, a former student of Mark McConnell, is currently a NASA flight controller and astronaut trainer in the Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) Division at NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, Texas. She gave a talk titled “U.S. Spacewalks—Past, Present, and Future of American EVAs.” 

  Joseph Jensen   Natalie Kashi
  o'rourke   lyon
  Devon O'Rourke
  Christopher Lyon

Kristi Donahue was appointed assistant director of the NH Space Grant Consortium (NHSGC).

NHSGC recently awarded UNH Graduate Fellowships for Academic Year 2014-15 to five Ph.D. students who will work in respective faculty labs. They are, Joseph Jensen, a second-year student in space physics (Jimmy Raeder), Natalie Kashi, a first-year student in UNH's natural resources and the environment program (Ruth Varner), fourth-year chemistry student Christopher Lyon (Erik Berda), Amanda Madden, a fourth-year student in space physics (Jim Ryan), and first-year student in microbiology Devon O'Rourke (Vaughn Cooper).

NHSGC also supported three UNH Summer 2014 Interns. Mechanical engineering senior Kiley Donohue was an intern at the NASA AMES Academy, Daniel Newell, an electrical engineering senior, interned at NASA Langley Academy, and computer science sophomore Tyler Slabinski interned in the UNH Laboratory for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis in Morse Hall.  

Amanda Madden
Ocean Process Analysis Laboratory

Joe Salisbury was appointed to the Maine State Commission to Study the Effects of Coastal and Ocean Acidification on Commercially Harvested and Grown Species—the first such scientific panel on the East Coast. The commission will study the negative effects of ocean acidification and make recommendations to the legislature on how to address the threat. Commission members include fishermen, aquaculturalists, scientists, and legislators. Growing acidification poses a significant threat in the Gulf of Maine as it can inhibit shell production of lobsters, crabs, clams, shrimp, oysters, scallops, mussels, and sea urchins.

Salisbury also contributed to the Global Carbon Budget 2014 paper published in the journal Earth System Science Data Discussions. Produced by dozens of scientists from around the world, the report states that carbon dioxide emissions are expected to reach a record high of 40 billion tons in 2014—evidence that global emissions are accelerating rather than slowing down.

Doug Vandemark
Jamie Pringle

Doug Vandemark had a four-year award granted this summer to continue work on NASA's International Ocean Vector Wind Science Team in conjunction with Jim Edson of the University of Connecticut. The study, titled "A multi-sensor view of satellite ocean wind stress estimation and its application to atmosphere-ocean coupling,” involves comparison of moored buoy measurements of air-sea fluxes in the Gulf of Maine and North Atlantic to global satellite wind data measurements.

Jamie Pringle published the paper “The location, strength, and mechanisms behind marine biogeographic boundaries of the east coast of North America” in the journal Ecography, which highlights work on pattern and diversity in ecology. The paper examines what sets species boundaries at very high resolution by using four million-plus observations entered it into standard databases. The processes that affect the location of biogeographic boundaries are important to predictions of how the distribution and co-distribution of species might change in response to climate change (warmer waters) or the spread of invasive species.

Tim Moore is part of a new NASA grant that will address the inherent optical properties of oceanic particle absorption and backscattering as part of the upcoming Pre-Aerosol, Clouds, and ocean Ecosystem, or PACE, mission. Accurate values of absorption and backscattering, and estimates of their uncertainties, are critical for remote sensing validation and development. Moore also presented data from his Lake Erie toxic algae study at the Ocean Optics Conference in Portland, Maine at the end of October.

Earth Systems Research Center
Heidi Asbjornsen

Heidi Asbjornsen is the principal investigator on one of two National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Program awards recently won by UNH. Asbjornsen’s project is the installation of an Elemental Analyzer stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer in a dedicated Morse Hall laboratory. The spectrometer can examine stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and hydrogen, allowing researchers to track the individual element progressions through the environment in an effort to understand how ecosystems respond to change over time. Ruth Varner and Andrew Ouimette are co-investigators, and Linda KalnejaisWil Wollheim, Rossella Guerrieri, Michael Palace, Matthew Vadeboncoeur, and Erik Hobbie are collaborators on the project.  A total of twenty-four UNH faculty members, including postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students compose the diverse team of scientists who will use the spectrometer to further their current research projects on the impacts of climate change, human-environment interactions, and nutritional health. 

Madeline Mineau
Richard Carey

Madeleine Mineau was promoted to research assistant professor. Mineau is currently working on applying UNH-developed coupled terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem models as part of the NH EPSCoR Ecosystems and Society project.

Richard Carey was promoted to research scientist II.  Carey published a paper in Environmental Science and Technology titled “Characterizing Storm-Event Nitrate Fluxes in a Fifth Order Suburbanizing Watershed Using In Situ Sensors” with coauthors Wil Wollheim, Gopal Mulukutla, and Madeleine Mineau.

Wollheim, along with Bill McDowell of the UNH department of natural resources and the environment, was guest editor of a synthesis paper in a special issue of the journal Biogeochemistry on urban stream biogeochemistry. The issue is titled “Tracking evolution of urban biogeochemical cycles: past, present, and future.”

Ph.D. student Nathaniel Morse published the first chapter of his dissertation in the same Biogeochemistry special issue. The paper is titled “Climate variability masks the impacts of land use change on nutrient export in a suburbanizing watershed.” Wollheim, Morse’s advisor, was coauthor. Morse also successfully defended his Ph.D. and is now a student of environmental law at the Boston University School of Law.

Jingfeng Xiao

Jingfeng Xiao was awarded $1.1 million from NASA for a three-year project titled “Exploring the interactions between carbon cycling, land use and climate change within mixed agricultural, forested, suburban, and urban landscapes.” Co-investigators on the project are Changsheng Li, Alexandra Contosta, and Ruth Varner.

Xiao published a paper in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology with co-authors Scott Ollinger and Steve Frolking on a study that assessed the magnitude, distribution, and interannual variability of carbon sinks and sources over North America 2000-2012. And this summer Xiao was elected co-chair of the United States-China Carbon Consortium at the 11th USCCC Annual Meeting in Lanzhou, Gansu, China and gave invited talks at Tsinghua University and the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In early September, Matt Huber was one of 30 delegates at the ”Early Cenozoic Tropical Climate: Report from the Tanzania Onshore Paleoclimate Integrated Coring (TOPIC) Workshop” in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The three-day gathering of scientists was an effort to develop a proposal for a new International Continental Scientific Drilling Program project to recover a stratigraphic and paleoclimatic record from the full succession of Eocene coastal marine sediments now uplifted and exposed on land in southern Tanzania.

Notes Huber, “New sea surface temperature data have revolutionized our view on how hot the tropics can get in a globally warm world. More data from these regions will add to the body of knowledge and help us better predict the future of the tropics, including heat stress, droughts, and food security issues. My role in this is as a climate modeler who uses this geological data and places it within a broader terrestrial and marine context for the past and future.” For an inside look at the drilling project, see this video featuring Huber.

Carmody McCalley was lead author on a paper published in Nature titled “Methane dynamics regulated by microbial community response to permafrost thaw.” The paper was based on work McCalley did as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona.

Steve Frolking was second author on a paper published in Nature titled “Direct human influence on atmospheric CO2 seasonality from increased cropland productivity.”

Fieldwork at
Columbia Glacier

In early October, Ph.D. student Ryan Cassotto concluded a week of fieldwork at the terminus of Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound, Alaska with researchers from the USGS, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Prince William Sound Science Center. They conducted radar scans of the glacier and fjord to monitor changes in the velocity in response to perturbations along the terminus. The data will also be used to analyze the trajectories and transit time of icebergs leaving the fjord, which could pose a hazard to ships and boats en route to Valdez. To view real-time images via the time-lapse camera the researchers installed at Columbia Glacier, see

Following the fieldwork, Cassotto presented data from his studies at Jakobshavn Isbrae—a large glacier in Greenland, and Columbia Glacier at the 2014 Northwest Glaciologists meeting.  The meeting was held at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks where more than 50 researchers presented results from work in Alaska, Greenland, and Antarctica. 

by David Sims, Science Writer, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space.

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