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A NASA science space mission measuring the temperature of plants to help study how they respond to water shortages is getting an important assist from NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) at the Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center.

NASA ECOSTRESS image of Garden City, Kansas
Garden City, Kansas - Center pivot irrigation dominates the landscape with circular patterns distributed across this Kansas community. Blue circles and squares indicate recently irrigated fields. The Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) at EROS provided key support for engaging Early Adopters of ECOSTRESS data. (Credit: NASA JPL. Public domain.)

Numerous members of the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) Science Team are lauding the LP DAAC’s work in supporting the Early Adopter Program, as well as its efforts to get ECOSTRESS data into the NASA DAAC’s Application for Extracting and Exploring Analysis Ready Samples (AppEEARS) data extraction tool.

“An A-plus,” said ECOSTRESS Applications Lead Christine Lee at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) when asked to characterize the LP DAAC’s assistance. “I’ve only heard extremely positive things about the engagement of the LP across all scales.”

NASA Headquarters ECOSTRESS Program Scientist Woody Turner echoed that in an email to LP DAAC members, singling out the DAAC’s work in granting access to 200-plus Early Adopter users of the provisional data, developing quick guides for downloading ECOSTRESS granules, providing scripts and tutorials for working with the data, and more.

“(Christine Lee) ... tells me that the LP DAAC has been a fantastic partner for JPL and ECOSTRESS on Early Adopters,” Turner wrote. “This important ECOSTRESS program ... would not be possible without the key support from LP DAAC.”

ECOSTRESS hitched a ride to the International Space Station on June 29, 2018, aboard a NASA-contracted Space X cargo resupply mission. Once there, it was robotically installed on the exterior of the station’s Japanese Experiment Module - Exposed Facility Unit.

As a cost-effective NASA Earth Science Venture-class mission, ECOSTRESS’ mandate is to measure the temperature of plants growing in specific locations on Earth, giving scientists insight into the effects of events like heat waves and droughts on crops. The mission will help address three overarching science questions:

  • How is the terrestrial biosphere responding to changes in water availability?
  • How do changes in diurnal vegetation water stress impact the global carbon cycle?
  • Can agricultural vulnerability be reduced through advanced monitoring of agricultural water consumptive use and improved drought estimation?

LP DAAC Project Scientist Tom Maiersperger at EROS said he and his staff reached out to the ECOSTRESS Science Team and their production people early on to help them understand how the DAAC could partner and collaborate with them on several mission fronts, including engaging the user community through data access, outreach, and education.

“Science teams aren’t always aware ... of what the full functions of a DAAC are,” Maiersperger said. “We’re not just sort of a dusty library where stuff sits. We explained to them that there are a lot of ways we can work together, and that was very well received.”

With a growing emphasis in NASA on data’s role in applications and not just science and research, ECOSTRESS became the first Earth Venture-scale mission to establish an Early Adopter program. The idea was to get provisional data into the hands of the user community early so it could start working with the data and establish a sense of its utility.  Within months, over 200 Early Adopters signed up and started using ECOSTRESS data, reflecting the high demand for these data from various science and applications communities.

The LP DAAC archives the data and has made it available to those Early Adopters through NASA’s Earthdata Search client application. JPL provided the list of the Early Adopters—researchers from the US and throughout the world—and the DAAC made sure they could access the provisional data.

Cole Krehbiel, a remote sensing scientist and contractor to the NASA LP DAAC at EROS, said Early Adopters are often scientists who want to leverage NASA data to study such things as, say, urban heat island effects in places like Los Angeles, or how plants use water in corn country.

“It’s a nice way to give researchers access to the data before it’s released to the public so they can start looking at the data,” Krehbiel said. “It makes it a lot easier for them to evaluate whether to use the data for a larger study if they have a general sense of what the data looks like, and what variables are included.”

The fact that the JPL/ECOSTRESS Science Team was able to put an Early Adopter program together and support the level of interest “was something that was pretty much enabled by the LP DAAC’s engagement,” Lee said. “I wouldn’t have been able to manage 200 users without the DAAC.”

Beyond providing access, LP DAAC staff worked with JPL staff to develop a Python resampling script to convert ECOSTRESS’ swath data onto a grid with a defined coordinate reference system. That makes it easier for users to identify the data’s location on the Earth. It also helps enable ECOSTRESS data to be used within the AppEEARS data extraction tool.

The AppEEARS tool allows users to study single geographic points across the planet or to go larger and sample expansive areas. Using specified bands/layers and time ranges from scores of geospatial datasets, those users can explore data values, trends, and relationships within the AppEEARS interface using several interactive charts and graphs.

The AppEEARS tool “is going to be critical for scientists to use ECOSTRESS data due to the very large volume of the 70-meter pixel data,” said ECOSTRESS Science Lead, Joshua Fisher at JPL. “It’s not feasible to download and reproject all of that data for large spatial and temporal domains, so on-the-fly analysis tools such as AppEEARS will be a huge time saver.”

The LP DAAC is providing outreach and education as well through workshops and webinars. In his email to LP DAAC/ECOSTRESS staff, Turner praised a recent workshop that Gregory Halverson from JPL and Krehbiel gave to show users how to work with ECOSTRESS data. That’s important information for both Early Adopters and others now that the first four ECOSTRESS products, including geolocation and radiance data, have become publicly available as of March 27.

Before leaving to take another job, Sydney Neeley with the DAAC wrote quick guides to support the Early Adopter Program. And now LP DAAC staff and the JPL/ECOSTRESS Team are engaging Early Adopters on a Slack channel that was set up so those Early Adopters could discuss ECOSTRESS and direct questions to the science team and the DAAC.

As the higher level ECOSTRESS products roll out early in the summer of 2019, Lee said she hopes to collaborate with LP DAAC to document lessons learned and to develop guidelines that could serve as a reference for future Early Adopter programs associated with NASA Venture-class missions.

Considering how successful this partnership has been, that sounds like a good idea to Maiersperger.

“From my project scientist seat, I have a real appreciation for the ECOSTRESS Science Team and all their support people at JPL who, when we leaned towards them, they came together and spent the time and energy to work with us closely,” he said. “It’s developed into a really strong collaboration that I think is ultimately going to be effective for a lot of users.”


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