Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

CLaSP Seminar Series - Dr. Elizabeth MacDonald

Date: January 26, 2017
Time: 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Location: Space Research Building Auditorium, Room 2246

Our guest for this week's CLaSP Seminar Series will be Dr. Elizabeth MacDonald, Research Astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Please join us! 

Title: ", bringing together people and science in pursuit of the Northern and Southern Lights"

Abstract: Aurorasaurus is a mobile citizen science platform for crowd-sourcing volunteered geographic observations of the aurora. The resulting data are relevant to the space science community that lacks for such real-time observations.  In turn the platform aims to improve nowcasting of the local visibility of the Northern Lights for the public through location-based notifications and an updating real-time map. This talk will highlight science results and ways to get involved with the project. Validation of auroral oval models is one goal. Improving communication of understanding the aurora is another goal. Bringing together the public with a broad scientist network allows for the exchange of ideas about auroral observations, possible satellite-ground conjunctions, and further study of rare events. The frequency of aurora-related tweets also show characteristic behavior that correlates strongly with real-time geomagnetic activity. Altogether the platform provides state-of-the-art software utilizing human-computer interactions for interdisciplinary advances in scientific research.

Bio: Dr. Liz MacDonald first witnessed the aurora as part of her doctorate research conducted in Alaska, building instruments that fly onboard research rockets to measure the particle precipitation causing the lights. She received her PhD from the University of New Hampshire and spent 9 years at Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) as a postdoctoral researcher and staff scientist. There she primarily focused on experimental plasma mass spectrometer instruments for the Van Allen Probes NASA spacecraft and LANL payloads for geosynchronous orbit. In 2012 she founded the project Aurorasaurus to take advantage of new sources of data in this, the first solar maximum with social media. The project has received interdisciplinary funding from LANL, the US National Science Foundation, and most recently NASA. Since 2014 she has been a civil servant with the Goddard Space Flight Center and has led aspects of the Fast Plasma Investigation as part of the recently launched Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission in addition to continuing her earlier research.

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