By Bailey Berg
Taylor Duclos, a graduating senior at Alaska Pacific University, has an impressive resume. For one, the 22-year-old has already interned with NASA.
Duclos was one of 32 students chosen nationwide to be apart of the NASA Student Airborne Research Program based in California last summer.
The eight-week program gave students practical experience working on a scientific campaign using the planes — also known as flying science laboratories — in NASA’s fleet, including the DC-8, P-3B, Sherpa and ER-2. The aircrafts are used for researching topics ranging from atmospheric chemistry and air quality to forest ecology and ocean biology.
For the first two weeks of the program, Duclos and her peers were at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Hangar in Palmdale, receiving lectures on air chemistry, land and ocean remote sensing, what NASA does as a whole, and how the various planes and instruments aided scientists in learning about the earth. It was also there Duclos flew in an DC-8, a highly specialized research aircraft.
“They compared it to drinking water out of a fire hose,” Duclos said. “Which it was.”
Those two weeks of lectures helped Duclos decide what she wanted to focus on researching the next six weeks to present at the culmination of her internship.
Duclos said she was most interested in remote sensing, the scanning of the earth by satellite or high-flying aircraft to obtain information about it, so she looked for a research question where she could use a variety of sensing methods. Ultimately, she landed on observing how loss of vegetation during and after a wildfire effects surface erosion.
“I found that the more burned the areas are and the steeper the area was, the more erosion will take place,” Duclos said.
There happened to be a wildfire underway while Duclos was doing the bulk of her research giving her prime opportunities for testing her hypothesis.
“What was significant about this fire was because it was right on the coast, all that erosion is going to pollute the water nearby,” Duclos said.
At the end of the summer, Duclos presented her findings to her fellow interns and NASA scientists.
The environmental studies major is just wrapping up a research project closer to school. Her senior project involved looking at the diet of pacific razor clams on the Kenai Peninsula using stomach samples. After graduation next week, Duclos plans on moving back to her home state of Oklahoma.
“I’m hoping find a job in GIS or as a field technician,” Duclos said. “Anything related to environmental science.”
Bailey Berg is the Social Media Coordinator at Alaska Pacific University