Bridge Program Lecture

'Introduction of Remote Sensing' and 'Carbon Cycling in the Mekong River Basin'

On a research field trip to Cambodia in June and July 2009, Erin Ellis and Stefanie Kirschke taught a 3-day course on carbon cycling and remote sensing for large tropical rivers at Resource Development International-Cambodia (RDIC). The course was directed to the 7 BRIDGE students selected by RDIC (read more).  

The course was divided into a series of interactive lectures.  The students were first introduced to classic river ecology theories.  They were encouraged to use their previous knowledge of the physical properties of streams and rivers to make predictions about how biology (i.e. primary production and respiration) changes as streams grow in size. 

Students were then introduced to the carbon cycle, in particular focusing on the role of tropical rivers 1) as a source of CO2 to the atmosphere and 2) as a source of carbon to the ocean.  The Mekong River served as a case study in which students were able to see how carbon concentrations change in response to the onset of the rainy season.  All students in the Bridge program are Cambodians and thus share a mutual interest in understanding the Mekong River Basin which seasonal patterns dominate the country.

A lecture on the introduction of remote sensing was designed to provide a basic understanding of remote sensing concepts, technologies and sensors. None of the Bridge students had had experience with satellite technology and imagery before.

A fourth lecture about turbidity and sediment transport in the Mekong River Basin and the Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia provided a more detailed insight into the application of a specific sensor and band ratio to visualize and analyze the turbidity in the river system.

The outreach lectures were complimented by a field trip to the Mekong River.  During this trip, students learned how scientists conduct river sediment sampling.  They also helped make optical measurements of the river water to analyze the light conditions and turbidity of the surface water.