After braving the cold this past winter to conduct research for the “Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems” (OWLeS) project, Caitlin Crossett ’15 is enjoying the opportunity – and the weather – to intern at Texas A&M University this summer.
Stationed in Houston, Texas, Crossett is interning with the Research Education for Undergraduates Program in the Atmospheric Sciences Department. She is working on the Oak Tree Project, an ongoing comprehensive study that compares the impacts of oak trees on climate change and pollution in both rural and urban areas. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and entails research and education involving students from junior high to post-graduate levels.
Crossett is working with Gunnar Schade, associate professor of chemistry at Texas A&M, to collect meteorological data and measure the emissions of various hydrocarbons from tree leaves at three different field sites: the urban Houston, the suburban Woodlands Texas, and the rural Sam Houston National Forest.
“One of the ultimate goals of the project is to be able to predict the effects of hydrocarbon emission from these species of trees in changing a climate,” says Crossett, a geoscience and environmental studies double major. She says they chose the urban site in Houston as a “proxy” because it’s already experiencing several of the predicted effects, like increased temperature and stronger heat waves.
Though Crossett is new to the Oak Tree Project, she has been able to apply the research skills she’s acquired from previous research experiences on campus. Crossett says she’s been able to use the general research skills and knowledge garnered from her research on Surges along the African Highlands with Assistant Professor of Geoscience Nick Metz last summer. Metz and Associate Professor of Geoscience Neil Laird, who have both worked with Crossett on prior research, helped Crossett find her internship with Texas A&M.
“Based only on the material of last summer’s research, there was little overlap with what I’m studying this summer,” Crossett says, “But having experience conducting research was extremely helpful.”
Crossett’s participation with the OWLeS project also gave her the rare opportunity to fly over the Finger Lakes and Lake Ontario in a research aircraft. OWLeS is a collaborative effort between several universities funded by the National Science Foundation to research atmospheric issues such as heavy snowfall, lake-effect snow storm and boundary-layer meteorology. Crossett called the experience “invaluable” for boosting her technical abilities and knowledge of atmospheric science.
Not only have these experiences, and her current internship, helped her develop the fundamental skills essential to pursuing further geoscience research, but she says they’re also crucial in her post-graduate plans to pursue a master’s or Ph.D. degree.
“The opportunity to do research at Texas A&M will not only help me narrow down my research interests for the future but will also put me in a better position than other applicants to the same universities due to my research experience,” says Crossett.