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UNB researchers involved in NASA-funded research project on St John River watershed

Author: Communications

Posted on Nov 9, 2010

Category: UNB Fredericton , myUNB

A million dollar project funded by NASA will include the work of two researchers from the University of New Brunswick. Brigitte Leblon and Armand LaRocque are part of a multidisciplinary team studying three major watersheds in New Brunswick and Maine.  They are examining the Androscoggin/Kennebec, Penobscot and St. John rivers, and the Gulf of Maine to see how much water, carbon and nutrients are moving through forested and agricultural lands, as well as wetlands, into the rivers and the coastal marine environment. The project recently received a three-year, US $1.1 million grant under NASA’s Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science program. Although international in scope, the project is particularly relevant to Canada’s and New Brunswick’s economy and natural resources. “We want to understand how these materials are changing in quantity and quality through river transport and interaction with the coastal ocean currents, which will have broader impacts on socially relevant issues like ground fisheries and harmful algal blooms known as red tides," said Dr. Leblon. The team will use NASA and RADARSAT-1/2 satellite imagery to assess how dissolved organic carbon and nutrients are travelling through and transformed in these major watersheds, and in what quantity. The research project will use historical data to develop a baseline of land use and climate change over the past century, and will help predict how hydrology and carbon cycling is likely to be altered with projected changes over time. "What's unique about this project is that it is one of the first times that remote sensing is being used over both the terrestrial watersheds and the marine environment to examine global climate change questions," said Dr. Leblon. Dr. Leblon is a professor specializing in remote sensing, photo-interpretation and GIS at the UNB Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management. Dr. LaRocque is a researcher in the same faculty who specializes in geomorphology, GIS, photo-interpretation and remote sensing. The research team also includes scientists from Bowdoin College, Michigan Tech University, U.S. Geological Survey, and Yale University. The members represent diverse backgrounds such as terrestrial remote sensing and GIS, aquatic biogeochemistry, hydrology, carbon isotope analysis, and ocean remote sensing.